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I wish that director Brad Peyton’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island had been an amazing adventure film. I also wish that it was so remarkably terrible that it managed to become entertaining. Instead, the movie is set firmly in the middle, neither good nor bad, but also instantly forgettable.
Picking up a while after the events of Journey To The Center of the Earth, the story begins with Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) living the life of a rebel, breaking into local satellite facilities and running from the cops on his motorcycle. While he’s partially doing it to act out against his mother’s new boyfriend, Hank (Dwayne Johnson, who steps in for Brendan Fraser in the sequel), he’s also on a quest to find his grandfather, the renowned adventurer Alexander Anderson (Michael Caine). With some help from Hank, Sean is able to decode a transmission from his grandfather and learns that the legendary Mysterious Island, as written about by Jules Verne, actually exists. Traveling with a helicopter pilot, Gabato (Luis Guzman), and the pilot’s daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), Hank and Sean travel to the Mysterious Island and have the adventure of a lifetime.
While Journey 2 passes without a central villain – the island itself is really the only thing throwing up roadblocks for the characters – there’s no point where you feel as though the characters are actually being threatened or are in any kind of real danger (and not just because it’s a family film). After arriving on the island, the gang learns that they must leave because the whole thing is sinking into the ocean. But at no point do we ever feel a real time crunch, as the characters immediately figure out how they will get off the island and are constantly stopping to deal with relationship issues between each other (be it Alexander’s dislike of Hank, Sean’s crush on Kailani, or Gabato’s quest to send his daughter to college) and don’t really seem too worried. How stressed about their survival could they be if they are taking breaks to show off “the pec pop of love” and sing “It’s A Wonderful World” around a campfire?
The movie is filled to the brim with CGI, and when you consider how computer technology has advanced in the last decade alone, it actually comes as a surprise how shoddy everything looks. While part of production was on-location in Hawaii, it’s remarkably easy to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not, as all of the fake things in the environment have a strange plastic sheen on them. Also, the giant creatures that the group encounters, including lizards, birds and bees, all look terribly unrealistic, which hurts when the audience is meant to be scared of them. It’s never a good sign when it’s just as easier to imagine the actors running in front of a green screen than them running across the terrain of the Mysterious Island.
It’s quite obvious that Journey 2 is aimed at children, but the result is that adults are going to be stuck bored and rolling their eyes for 94 minutes. The strange pacing will appeal to the shortest of attention spans and the youngest in the crowds likely won’t even recognize how fake the environments are. The film’s humor comes almost exclusively from Luis Guzman, but it’s all so immature (jokes about smelly armpits, lame slapstick humor, etc.) that it will inspire more face-palms than laughs from the grown-up members of the audience. While Johnson is usually a blast to watch – particularly in action films – he’s watered in this title to the point that he’s barely recognizable. It isn’t a bad thing that the movie knows who is going to enjoy the story and who isn’t, but it’s only fair that the parents be warned before entering the theater.
By the end of the year, not only will Brad Peyton’s latest movie not be making my year-end lists, but I may completely forget that I saw it. In fact, it’s a film that is neither entertaining nor terrible enough to remember beyond the five minutes it takes you to exit the local cinema and it’s not going to affect anyone’s career in a significant way. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a title that just happens to exist.