DVD Review: Journey 2 - The Mysterious Island / Cert: PG / Director:Brad Peyton / Screenplay: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn / Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman / Release Date: May 28th
In all honesty I can’t remember a great deal about the 2008 3D “remake” of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre the Earth beyond the fact that it was as much a “remake” as my shoes are a remake of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. I can sort of recall Brendan Fraser spewing mouthwash all over me in 3D and maybe a dinosaur or two. But then it was a kid’s film - a big, loud, silly kid’s film - and I’m sure kids would have found much to enjoy in its goofball slapstick and light adventure storyline. So here’s the inevitable sequel, again riffing off a Verne original pretty much in name only - and I’ve a feeling that, when the next sequel rocks up in two or three years time, all I’ll be able to remember will be the scenes of smiley Dwayne Johnson bouncing berries off his impressive man-boobs.
So what do you get for your ninety-odd minutes of fun and frolics? It’s a few years since young Sean Anderson (Hutcherson) returned from his - ahem - journey to the centre of the earth with his uncle. Sean is now seventeen, his uncle has buggered off somewhere (he barely gets a mention) and Sean’s Mom is married to big, hunky, smiley Hank (Johnson - The Rock!) - and they just don’t get on. Like all American teenagers, Sean is obsessed with the works of Jules Verne (Are you sure about this? - Ed) and eventually, reluctantly accepting his smiley Stepdad’s help, he manages to track down the location of the “mysterious island” where he believes his explorer Granddad has gone missing. In the most mind-blowing example of family bonding in recent cinema history, Hank agrees to take Sean off to Indonesia where they charter a helicopter from a comic relief character - and, sure enough, his foxy teenage daughter Kailani who really wants to go to college in America. The helicopter is soon caught up in a storm and crashes on… the mysterious island.
It doesn’t require a huge leap of imagination to work out exactly what happens next. After an encounter with tiny elephants (actually, I expect you wouldn’t have necessarily imagined that), the group wander into a field of lizard eggs, get chased by an angry mother-lizard and rescued by - ta dah! - Sean’s missing Grandad. This is Michael Caine and boy, is he doing this for the money. He’s in best ‘charming old buffer’ mode here, cackling hysterically and constantly trading insults with Hank to whom he takes an immediate disliking. PG-rated abuse abounds: Hank is “Mary Poppins”, Granddad is “Sasquatch” (he’s grown a big beard). Before long the group set off to find their way home - Grandad knows the whereabouts of Captain Nemo’s submarine the Nautilius which is lying around somewhere - but when the local volcano starts spewing gold Hank, who’s suddenly an expert seismologist, realises that the island is about to explode and sink! Much mild peril ensues as the group ride on the backs of giant bees and get attacked by giant birds.
Journey 2 is a brisk and likable little kid’s film which nods towards any adults in the audience only occasionally - the camera lingers over Vanessa Hudgens a little too longingly once or twice and, like most kid’s films, there’s plenty of scatalogical humour and physical silliness to pass the time. Dwayne Johnson flashes his pearl-white teeth for virtually the entire movie - when he’s not imploring Sean to “pop your pecs” to impress Kailani or singing a reworded version of ‘What a Wonderful World’ which will make your toes curl. But the effects are great, there’s never a dull moment even if there’s never much of a sense of real danger and, of course, at the very end the scene is set for the next Verne-inspired romp. Looks like Sean and co are headed “From the Earth to the Moon” next time around. That’s okay. There are worse kid’s film franchises out there. This is decent, competent stuff, fun for all the family.
Special Features: Short gag reel, two or three deleted scenes (one of which you’ll want to show your kids if they’re worried about what happens to all the animals if the island sinks).