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Film review: JOURNEY 2, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND from Built for Speed

What the hell was Journey 1 you might ask? Well J1 was in fact the 2008 Journey to the Centre of the Earth remake with Brendan Fraser. This sequel-of-sorts takes another Jules Verne adventure novel in this case Mysterious Island and gives if the same contemporary tweaking.
In Journey 2, Josh Hutcherson, the kid from J 1 is now a lame teen rebel of the Shia Le Beouf school. When he’s not being pursued by the cops he’s scowling at his mum (Kristin Davis in a “blink and you’ll miss it role”) and step dad The Rock aka Dwayne Johnston, yes the cute one from Sex and City married to The Rock. When a coded message reveals that Hutcherson’s Grandpa (Michael Caine) has discovered Verne’s Mysterious Island (the place not the book), the kid and The Rock head off to find him. Joining them are chopper pilot and comedy relief chicken-man Luiz Guzman and his daughter Vanessa Hudgens.
This film is basically a mix of cgi-driven action-adventure and quirky comedy as the group are chased around the island by giant critters while searching for the legendary Captain Nemo’s submarine Nautilus.
The film is not a think-piece, it’s mostly designed for younger audiences who want constant movement, a few monsters and adults acting silly. Appropriately it moves pretty quickly from one set piece to another, wasting little time on trivial things like inventive plotting or character development. Some of the action set pieces are exciting and spectacular such as the pursuit by a giant lizard and a volcanic eruption while others, such as the giant bee dogfight – which just reworks the speeder chase from Return of the Jedi – are a bit dodgy. Also, the film has fake plastic look which deprives it of the convincing otherworldly atmosphere that older audiences would like.
In the brief gaps between action scenes there’s some fairly successful attempts at humour such as Guzman’s panicky, paranoid reaction to the island’s dangers and The Rock’s grinning self-parody. Whoever talked The Rock into doing a ludicrous peck jiggling display, though, is probably receiving a giant body slam as we speak.
The performances are generally adequate for this type of film although as the young lead, Hutcherson is uninspiring. Also, there’s a lack of romantic fizz between him and Hudgens. Michael Caine is kind of amusing as the irascible old coot who immediately starts taunting The Rock as soon as he meets him, although, apart from a big wad of cash it’s hard to imagine what drew to this film.
This is for the most part a fun, kid-friendly fantasy adventure but by no means an entirely fitting tribute to the works of Jules Verne.

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