JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
When troubled teen Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) - an avid 'Vernian' knowledgeable in all of Jules Verne's works - receives an encrypted message, he reluctantly accepts decoding help from his mom's boyfriend Hank (Dwayne Johnson). They decipher the signal as possibly coming from Sean's grandfather (Michael Caine) - on Verne's legendary Mysterious Island. He and Hank take off on an adventure into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Review by Louise Keller:
Michael Caine flying atop a giant bee; pocket-sized elephants, a gigantic sea-snake with a 1,000 watt smile, a gold-spewing mountain and The Rock singing What a Wonderful World are among the incongruous and colourful elements of this fantasy adventure sequel that loosely uses Jules Verne's sci-fi novels as its inspiration.
It's a likeable film that speeds along with a happy rush and is filled with grandiose, imaginative ideas not only those plucked from its well credentialed source materials that are woven into the storyline. Adventure, action, fantasy, humour, romance and family values are meshed together in one compelling hit.
Using the sophisticated technology later used on Avatar, Journey to the Center of the Earth in 2008 was the first live-action film shot in 3D, with the filmmakers making the most of the opportunity with novelty items - like spitting toothpaste in our face. This time, the 3D is used in a far more sophisticated way, enhancing the narrative with its exotic, tropical settings and fantastical creatures that the protagonist and his motley crew encounter.
Resuming his role as Sean Anderson, Hutcherson plays the now rebellious 17-year-old, who is unable to relate to his legal guardian Hank (Johnson) and is eager to find his long-lost eccentric grandfather (Caine). It is on the trail of a mysterious coded distress signal that leads Sean and Hank to the South Pacific. Luis Guzmán (as the rogue helicopter pilot) provides the comic relief, while his curvaceous, headstrong daughter Kailani (Hudgens) is the love interest for the awkward teen with raging hormones. (The scene when The Rock demonstrates 'The Pec Pop of Love', flexing his sizeable chest to ping-pong berries, is hilarious.)
Michael Caine is a welcome presence after flying through the eye of a hurricane to the rainbow-filled paradise with waterfalls, volcanoes, giant butterflies, flowers and contrary beasts; he is in very good form. But it is Johnson who delivers the surprises, displaying his soft side - and a most amenable one at that.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Badged for cred with the name and fame of storyteller Jules Verne, this new adventure for Sean (Josh Hutcherson) involves all the magic tricks of a Hollywood adventure aimed at younger audiences - not toddlers, of course, but teenagers. Like Sean, they would be transported into the fantasy with ease ... and in 3D to boot. Sean gets instant approval in the film's opening sequence for his disregard for property and peace as he races his track bike across private gardens and into a swimming pool, after breaking in to a satellite facility. That's the place to boost a signal and receive secret messages from mysterious places.
With Sean's father dead, Sean has only Hank (Dwayne Johnson) as a male role model, since his grandfather (Michael Caine) has been missing for two years. But despite some initial friction between them, Hank underwrites Sean's adventure to find the mysterious island - and goes along as major back-up. They team up with low-rent chopper pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his pretty daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) and head for the location of the magical island.
The main adventure incorporates many smaller ones; not only do the disparate group stumble onto giant lizard's eggs - guarded by a giant lizard of course - but they meet huge bees they can fly on, chased by massive and hungry birds, only to discover that, ooops, the island is sinking back into the sea, well ahead of schedule.
There is humour and danger, spectacular fantasy landscapes and the eccentricity of grandpa as Michael Caine relishes the role of a mischievous relic. Most of the problems are easily solved (too easily perhaps) and Sean seems to have an annoyingly complete knowledge of tectonic plates, physics and natural history, which he uses to explain stuff that happens.
Pleasant enough but lacking the grounding (even with Caine in tow) that would give the film some badly needed edge, the entire adventure is based on perfunctory elements that seem shallow and artificial.
But then this is an escapist movie in which we are all encouraged just to have fun. Any interest in the great novels of Jules Verne that rubs off is accidental.
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JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (PG)
CAST: Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Vanessa Hudgens, Michael Caine, Luis Guzman, Kristin Davis, Anna Colwell
PRODUCER: Beau Flynn, Charlotte Huggins, Tripp Vinson
DIRECTOR: Brad Peyton
SCRIPT: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn (novel by Jules Verne)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall
EDITOR: David Rennie
MUSIC: Andrew Lockington
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Boes
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 19, 2012