Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (review)

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Journey 2 The Mysterious Island Josh Hutcherson Luis Guzman Vanessa Hudgens Dwayne The Rock Johnson

One Way Ticket

Gotta gotta love Hollywood. They’re not just in love with sequels, they’re in love with making sequels bad. So when they take a just barely inoffensive little kiddie action flick such as Journey to the Center of the Earth and give it another whirl, they’re sure to put the right talent on it. Such as director Brad Peyton. He’s not the guy they got to helm ordinary crap like Cats & Dogs — he’s the guy they got to helm the followup megacrap, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. And here are the screenwriting team of Brian and Mark Gunn, who didn’t pen the pretty good Bring It On but the direct-to-DVD shitquel Bring It On Again, and their cowriter Richard Outten, who wrote not Pet Sematary but Pet Sematary Two.
It’s not fair to suggest that Hollywood doesn’t care or isn’t trying. This assemblage of “talent” doesn’t happen by accident. They wanted to ensure that the modicum of charm and popcorn fun that Journey evoked was not repeated. Like, ironically, a Hollywood supervillain, Hollywood’s supervillainy may not make any sense to us, but that doesn’t mean that no one cares about it, or that no one has given it deep and serious thought.

Measured thusly, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island — get it? it’s the second film, but “2” also means “to” LOL! — is a smashing success. This one crams three times the hoo-hah into a 3D CGI theme-park ride, yet reduces itself to one-third the fun. Jules Verne was all the inspiration Journey needed, but now, the mysterious island to which a crack team of by turns unfunny, undaring, unappealing adventurers travels is a place that apparently Jules Verne, Jonathan Swift, and Robert Louis Stevenson were all writing about, in, respectively, The Mysterious Island, Gulliver’s Travels, and Treasure Island (this last one is a stretch even by the standards of bullshit fantasy). Oh, and the same island was also Atlantis. Oh, and it’s also protected by a perpetual, unending hurricane that is actually a tornado, and that all the meteorologists on Earth have hitherto overlooked.

Mysterious, indeed.

Poor ol’ Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant). He was saddled with Brendan Fraser as his weird wannabe-Indiana Jones uncle in Journey and now he’s got Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Fast Five, The Other Guys) as his weird wannabe-dad stepdad, who agrees to take Josh along to the mysterious island — which isn’t all that hard to find, as it transpires — as a bonding experience, and there Josh gets saddled with Michael Caine (Cars 2, Gnomeo & Juliet) as his grandfather in full-on crazy only-here-for-the-paycheck mode. Everything is topsy-turvy on the mysterious island! Elephants are tiny and bumblebees are enormous and even though it’s so tropically hot that Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch, Bandslam) is forced to wear nothing but teeny shorts and a midriff-baring tank top and hardly anything else, all the boys — including Luis Guzman’s (Arthur, The Taking of Pelham 123) helicopter pilot and father to the sensibly dressed girl — are all covered up. Madness!

It takes a helicopter crash to get them to the island. It’s like something outta Lost, but there’s nary a scratch on anyone, and certainly no psychological trauma. Matters of life and death on the mysterious island become matters of shits and giggles. Literally. Do you know what it’s like to get shit on by a bird the size of an F-14? Now you do. LOL!

But hey! It’s a children’s movie. That’s why there’s so much disturbing dick-measuring between The Rock and Michael Caine — you know, for kids. That’s why The Rock takes the time to give some advice on romance to Josh: kindergartners need to see, in the full glory of 3D, what the “pec pop of love” can do. It’s why The Rock sings: because it’s what the kiddies clamor for.

It’s why Journey 2 can steal all its action sequences from far superior movies — Jurassic Park, Return of the Jedi — and its score from The Lord of the Rings. Seriously, Fellowship of the Ring might as well be from 1955, as old as it seems to today’s five-year-olds. They’ve never seen those movies, so it’s all good.

(Journey 2 opens with a new Looney Tunes cartoon, “Daffy’s Rhapsody,” in which Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck do battle. In CGI. It’s just wwong.)

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