Movie #13: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

How capable are you at suspending disbelief? If you plan on enjoying Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (and you’re over 10 years old), you’d better be a disbelief-suspending guru! This movie is clearly a family adventure thrill-ride, but if I started listing all the logical inconsistencies and un-buyable nonsense in it, I might not be able to stop. I assume it’s supposed to be a sequel to the equally-preposterous 2008 Brendan Fraser movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth. This time around, Sean (played by rising-star Josh Hutcherson from The Hunger Games) is living with his mother and stepfather Hank (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) when he receives a coded message from his grandfather, octagenarian explorer extraordinaire, Alexander Anderson (played by Michael Caine). The message provides him with the coordinates to “The Mysterious Island” featured in Jules Verne’s novel of the same name. Once he and Hank figure it out, Sean immediately wants to leave for the south Pacific to meet up with his grandfather. Even before they get to this incredible place, we are already faced with the choice of whether our narrative sensibilities can accept that Hank would really decide to take Sean on this crazy, outlandish, potentially-dangerous expedition in order to bond with him (they’d just had a stepfather-stepson “moment” over the code-breaking). When they reach the island of Palau, they charter some transportation from Luis Guzman and his young hottie of a daughter, played by Vanessa Hudgens. Guzman’s character is oddly cartoonish and wimpy for an island pilot and he supplies a whole lot of the comic relief. (That isn’t to say there’s actually much tension to relieve.) What they find when they reach the island is beautiful nature, occasionally perilous terrain, and animals that are either much smaller or much larger than they normally would be. Ironically, after all that effort to get there, most of the movie is about them trying to find their way back off the island (which is very similar to the first movie). As I mentioned, the tone is pretty light. All the dangers and the creatures that they encounter would have caused most normal people to freak out, but instead they spend their time dealing with interpersonal stuff: Sean’s got goo-goo eyes for Hudgens’s Kailani, with Hank trying to teach him about women (the “pec-pop of love” scene is beyond laughable, especially given their circumstances); Alexander and Hank also get into it a few times about what it means to be a good parent; and of course Sean has at least one opportunity to throw a teenaged tantrum. Obviously none of that family drama is meant to make this movie fun. What’s supposed to do that is scenes of cradling mini elephants, riding giant bees, running from monstrous spiders, and harpooning electric eels. The special effects are not flawless, but they are at least relatively believable (even in HD, and probably better in 3D as it was in the theatre). I still enjoy Josh Hutcherson. I think he’ll make a good leading man one day, especially once he’s old enough to hit the rom-com circuit. However, The Rock is not great as a family-movie star. His comic-book physique actually made him seem kind of plastic and it was difficult to accept or relate to any of his dialogue (not to mention how he uses grins like periods at the ends of sentences, making every line feel like a photo-op). Unfortunately, in the end, my logical mind just couldn’t chillax enough to let my inner 8-year-old fully enjoy this movie. (3 out of 5)

13 down, 37 to go!

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