Why would a studio go to the trouble of conceiving and producing a sequel to a slipshod movie that received mixed reviews? The answer: a gigantic 3D-bumped box office. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is an uneven, painfully silly, yet amiable mess that has more adventurous intentions than actual assets. The film is supposed to be a fun entertainer but it does not have, despite its pretty look, an interesting story to really take off as a 21st century family flick.
The first Journey to the Center of the Earth was pretty bad - the big effects were masked by the lousy 3D and there were two paltry action scenes. Journey 2 is marginally better partly because of the accepted system that the second movie in a series is always bigger and more bombastic than the first. In reality Journey 2 is unsure whether it's a campy comedy or a big screen comic – the film dabbles in both and does neither one very well. With its over the top CGI monsters Journey 2 in fact plays like a dorky Ed Wood homage. The acting is alternately wooden and hammy but the special effects are epic and mildly amusing. Simply put, kids would probably dig this film, as would overgrown infants who consider it a huge thrill to munch popcorn through retro science fiction baloney.
There isn’t much of a story - Josh Hutcherson returns from the previous film as Sean Anderson, who is now a rebellious spoilt brat who feels imprisoned in his home. He had discovered Jules Verne's mystical world at the center of the earth with his uncle (Brendan Fraser), and all he wants now is to locate his grandfather (Michael Caine) whom he believes is somewhere on an obscure South Pacific island. Sean sets off on the quest along with his stepdad (Dwayne Johnson) and a father-daughter tour guide team (Vanessa Hudgens and Luis Guzman) where he encounters scary volcanoes, CGI tornadoes, gigantic reptiles and the toughest foe of them all – life lessons.
One would expect a clichéd premise like this to turn into a stinkbomb of a movie, but there are several titles worse than this. What Journey 2 lacks (and it lacks a whole lot), it makes up for in cheesy good charm. I can easily imagine Journey 2 being a movie I saw as a goofy 10-year-old and really enjoyed. There is a lot of dumb humour on display, and the absence of an exciting story and overdependence on slapstick will limit its appeal to giggling easily distracted school kids. The special effects are seamless, but everything else about the filmmaking is sloppy. The 3D is alternately overwhelming and patience-testing, though consistently gimmicky. All the characters, including the bodacious buff Johnson are thoroughly annoying, even the great Michael Caine who is supposed to be delightfully peculiar comes off as an irritating old fart.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a better quality sequel than dung heaps like Spy Kids 4. The original was one of the worst 3D movies of 2008, and while this sequel won’t win any awards, it’s (mostly) less annoying than its predecessor.
(First published in Mid Day)