In this sequel to the well received Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008), we find the young adventurer Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson, thankfully reprising his role from the first film) a few years older and just as curious in the midst of family troubles and routine teenage imaginations. At odds with his step father (Dwayne Johnson “The Rock”) and everything around him, Sean sets out to decipher a strange signal from a remote island that he believes is from his grandfather (Michael Caine). Sean struggles to convince his mom to let him go out on his own but his stepfather Hank (Rock) isn’t having it. Looking for a way to smooth over their rocky relationship, Hank offers to help decode the signal and when they figure things out it’s a short order before they set off for the island. Unfortunately, a bungling helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) is less adept at the wheel and instead of setting down safely on the island he strands them in a crash landing. The setups are obvious and convenient but once on the island the payoffs are fast and furious.
Most movie sequels have a lot to prove and an uphill battle to win over first time audiences while catering to the needs of faithful fans with a lot of expectations. In the CG and decisively PG universe of action-adventure-fantasy films with exotic locales for stories about aliens, dinosaurs and buried treasures, we need only remind ourselves that these films are purposefully stylized and intentionally over-the-top. These films register with younger audiences differently because kids aren’t interested in the improbability of riding giant bees like airy horses with black and yellow stripes, or that dinosaurs couldn’t co-exist on a mysterious island, or any island for that matter because they’d quickly eat one another back into extinction. With that in mind, audiences are well advised to embrace the film’s sense of playfulness and adventure in place of making a lot of demands for reasoning and realism. Besides, the jokes are tolerable and the action scenes applaud-able. Journey 2 invites us to get away for a couple of hours on a magic carpet ride-like adventure story.
Journey 2 does come dangerously close to nose-bleed cliché and conveniently ridiculous for the sake of a few laughs. Thankfully Rock’s big smile and everlasting charm goes a long way in patching things together. His patchwork quilt of scenes with Michael Caine are family funny and sometimes silly, giving the film the necessary strength to persevere. Director Brad Peyton’s reliance on pop-culture euphemisms and caricature to flesh out dialogue isn’t as effective as we’ve seen in other films, especially when the end draws near and things get wrapped up with a bow. Because the action sequences are given more screen time than character development or genuine emotional explorations, these aspects don’t offer much in the denouement. But kids aren’t interested in such matters, better served spectacular as fuel that sets the entire film moving toward a last-minute rescue. In the teen fantasy, romance, action adventure film there must always be plenty of effects to keep the audience cheering for resolution and a necessary end, otherwise audience’s start thinking they’ve sat down to see a film they didn’t sign up for.
Yes, Journey 2 is a kids movie and sometimes big kids too with stylish CG sequences and beautifully realized cinematography. The plot is airy and only remotely touches on the inspiration of Jules Verne, and while the characters are merely cardboard cutouts of impressions of other people, the film entertains and that’s plenty for two hours on any island, especially The Mysterious Island.
Blu-ray or Not to Blu-ray:
Yes please. This is the best possible choice in home theater movie collection – the Combo Pack that contains copies of the movie on Blu-ray, DVD and the Digital copy/ultra-violet digital download. There is a handful of bonus special features, like a gag reel and the obligatory deleted scenes reel. The picture and audio are superb in Blu-ray though nothing particularly outstanding.
Warner Home Video, a division of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., invited me to join their exclusive Blu-ray Elite Movie Review Program and they sent me a complimentary copy of this movie for the purpose of review with special attention on the “Blu-ray Experience”. I received this video for free, but that does not sway this review or the reviews of other films that will follow.