Review in a Hurry: Grown-ups and reviewers aren’t supposed to like movies that are almost entirely CG and PG-rated eye candy, but screw it. The inner child wins out on this one. Dwayne Johnson and Vanessa Hudgens in a movie that’s non-stop 3-D creature-action equals total win. Also, there’s a new Daffy Duck short attached.
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The Bigger Picture: Sticklers for scientific accuracy and Jules Verne purists might want to look away when a movie like this comes around. The godfather of steampunk, as he’d no doubt hate to be called, is but an excuse to get people surrounded by creatures as quickly as possible. And let’s just say that in the real world, a machine that has been stowed underwater since Victorian times is probably not going to do anything but rust and sink, nor would giant bees be so docile. Just watch what you say out loud; kids don’t actually know this stuff yet.
The first Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D was almost pure gimmick, a Real-D movie in the early days of the format that never missed a chance to use it for a gag, be that a toothpaste-spitting moment or a gratuitous yo-yo bit. Continuity into this sorta-sequel is minor: Josh Hutcherson‘s Sean is still here, but his heroic uncle (played by Brendan Fraser in the first film), hasn’t been written out so much as forgotten, replaced by stepfather Hank (Johnson) and long-lost grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine), whose transmissions from mysterious coordinates set the slim plot in motion.
Thinking that humoring Sean will be a bonding experience, Hank travels with him to Palau, where the latter somehow assumes that his dreams of saving gramps will be shattered, and the good ol’ stepdad can…what? Be a shoulder to cry on? It hardly matters, since this all perfunctory. As quickly as comprehensible dialogue will allow, they’re off with Luis Guzman and Hudgens in a rickety helicopter which crashes on…drumroll please…the lost island of Atlantis. Which also happens to be full of giant birds, bees, electric eels and reptiles.
Most of all, Journey 2 resembles old-school Ray Harryhausen monster movies, and while we can debate whether or not computer creations will ever have the “charm” of handmade stop-motion beasties, the fact is that the intended audience aren’t cynical enough to care. Thankfully, neither are the cast, who may make the occasional joke but leap into the adventure unironically and without much winking (though wrestling fans may catch a couple of fairly subtle in-jokes).
If you’re not inherently allergic to everything this movie represents, you stand a good chance of enjoying the Journey.
The 180—a Second Opinion: For all the money clearly thrown at the screen, it is unfortunately obvious when the actors suddenly find themselves on a soundstage in closeup, as opposed to the gorgeously enhanced, wide-shot vistas.
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