Young Sean (Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games) is the only returning cast member from 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth, meaning dad Brendan Fraser is nowhere to be found, replaced here by Fast Five's Dwayne Johnson as stepdad Hank. (That's called trading up.)
Wasting no time, the movie has Sean and Hank crack a code — with the aid of classic-lit works of Verne, Stevenson and Swift — that may help the boy find his missing grandfather. It suggests he's smack-dab in the South Pacific, so they hire two-bit helicopter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzmán, TV's How to Make It in America) to take them there. Luckily for Sean's raging hormones, Gabato flies with his hot daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens, Sucker Punch).
Naturally, the Mysterious Island of the title comes by its moniker honestly, being rife with giant centipedes, butterflies and ants, not to mention a miniature elephant. Our merry band of protagonists venture from one odd encounter (running from giant lizard) to another (riding giant bees) while waiting for Atlantis' waters to rise so they can hitch a ride on Capt. Nemo's Nautilus to return home.
Or something like that. Really, that's all irrelevant in a work of sci-fi where it's all about the spectacle. That's why Journey 2 was a no-duh candidate for getting the 3-D treatment, allowing Johnson's "pec pop of love" to bounce berries toward viewers, but really, the joke plays in 2-D just fine. I should know; my 7-year-old demanded an instant replay.
For a family film, Journey 2 is a remarkably easy one to take, and like. While it's just a paycheck for Michael Caine (Inception), who plays the aforementioned stranded senior citizen, it's the second check in a year's-time win column for Johnson, who oozes charisma. He always displays a natural screen presence that makes him instantly likable; he doesn't always pick the best vehicles to display it — Tooth Fairy, anyone? This secures his comeback ... for now.
Also new to DVD: Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, a very loose adaptation of the 1874 novel. In 1865, a Civil War unit led by Capt. Cyrus Harding (Lochlyn Munro, In the Name of the King: Two Worlds) hops into a hot-air balloon, hit a ripple and time, and crash-land in today’s times on the title isle, which is located in the Bermuda Triangle.
• "What the heck's a aeroplane?"
• "Colonel, you can't seriously be listenin' to a girl and a colored. They cain't vote!"'
• "What's on yer face? It looks like you got Indian warpaint!"
There’s also a song that begins "'Course I love yer biscuits / And your gravy, too,” but that’s beside the point.
Anyway, as these folks just wander about its sandy beaches, the Syfy movie is kind of like the TV series Lost, but without the critical acclaim and massive fandom. In its place are invading pirates, killer bushes that growl like dogs, an active volcano and, as Capt. Harding puts it, “An octopus. A giant octopus.”
A giant turd is more like it. —Rod Lott
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