Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman
Directed by Brad Peyton
Let's just go ahead and get this over with right from the start:
No, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is not a horror movie at all and yes, the reason we're covering it is because of our unabashed love for Dwayne Johnson (and his "Pec Pop of Love"- but more on that later), Jules Verne and an adventure featuring crazy oversized lizards and insects in spectacular eye-popping 3D. If you're looking for something more on the sinister side, then perhaps this review is not for you.
That being said, let's get on with our review of Journey 2!
Directed by Brad Peyton and starring Johnson (who the millions- and millions- lovingly refer to as "The Rock" anytime he steps in the squared circle), former Nickelodeon star Josh Hutcherson and the always delightful Michael Caine, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is absolutely 100 percent intended for younger audiences but still manages to be pretty darn entertaining for the adults too, as long as you go in prepared for a family-friendly action adventure flick.
At the start of Journey 2, 17-year-old troubled adventurer Sean (Hutcherson) receives a distress signal in Morse code that he suspects is his lost grandfather (Caine) who is trying to reveal to his grandson the location of the mythical Mysterious Island, made famous by writer Jules Verne in his 1874 novel. Since Sean's the same kid from the original flick, you can bet he's ready to head off for some adventure much to the chagrin of Sean's mother (a wonderfully underused Kristin Davis) and his "guardian" Hank (Johnson), who has been struggling to connect with his stepson since he came he married into his family (as you may guess, this will be a theme that pops up throughout the flick).
Hank wants to bond with Sean and thinks the trip might just do the job; so with a haphazard plan in mind, Sean, Hank and tour guides Gabato (Luis Guzman) and Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) are all soon thrust into an unimaginable world that’s as outlandish and spectacular as it is bewildering and dangerous.
Co-written by cousins Brian and Mark Gunn (who are also related to the uber-talented James Gunn), Journey 2- to its credit- is thankfully a family film which doesn't seem to pander to the idea that kids these days are dumb. But it also doesn't feel the need to fully explain its characters' motives and hasty decisions either and lays on the schmaltz factor pretty thick as well which is pretty much what you'd expect going into a movie made for audiences with limited attention span. Smartly though, Journey 2 goes against the grain and instead of going the tried and true 'narrative' route, the movie uses an abundance of spectacular effects (catered to the 3D technology the movie was created with), adrenaline-fueled (yet ultimately never life-threatening enough to freak the youngsters out) action scenes and a whole lot of Guzman going full-on hammy jokester mode to fill in the gaps of the story.
And while Peyton's Journey 2 essentially feels like the cinematic equivalent of ingesting two dozen Pixie sticks and then riding a roller coaster for 94 minutes, somehow it manages to strangely work, hiding the mundane script and desperately thin character development deep within the wonders of the Mysterious Island just long enough for audiences to forget the flaws and lose themselves along the way.
The performances in Journey 2 are all decent enough especially since the material really isn't there for any of the talented players to elevate their work in any way. Caine plays the grandfather role here on the silly and zany side and perhaps anywhere else it would make me cringe more to see the acclaimed actor don a motorcycle jacket for a lame joke but it's clear that Caine knew what he was signing up for with Journey 2 and just enjoys the silliness of the role with a twinkle in his eye.
As someone who relishes anything featuring Johnson in it, he does a pretty decent job with what is essentially Brendan Fraser's sloppy seconds (not sure why he didn't return but frankly, give me the "Brahma Bull" over "Encino Man" any day) and clearly has a lot of fun with his role as struggling stepdad Hank. He's charming as ever and of course the real reason anyone over 18 is showing up for Journey 2 is to see his "Pec Pop of Love" which is sublimely giggle-inducing.
And while I'm definitely biased in my opinion, the facts don't lie- no matter what movie or franchise it is, Johnson makes any project he's involved with infinitely more interesting whenever he's onscreen. He elevated the Fast Five franchise right when it was in jeopardy of going into retread territory; after a horrendous original movie that pissed off countless fans who grew up in the 80s, suddenly G.I. Joe 2 is one of the must-see movies of the 2012 summer and once again- Journey 2, the sequel no one asked for and most people didn't even know was coming until about a month ago, is far better than it has any right to be.
While millions of his fans have always known that Johnson has a rather unique star power (imagine Jason Statham doing a kids flick), it seems like finally Hollywood is catching on and using that thousand-watt grin and endless charisma for some good finally and while of course I always prefer to see Johnson in more serious fare, he managed to make Journey 2 entertaining for this overgrown kid at heart.
In terms of eye candy, Journey 2 looks amazing; the colors, the visual effects and the 3D are all stunning and I must admit, experiencing the adventure of Journey 2 in IMAX was pretty damn breathtaking. If you can't afford the hefty ticket price of 3D and IMAX, go with just 3D then; it's definitely worth the two extra bucks (there's one particular scene with sharks that felt like an homage to Jaws that left me chuckling) if you can swing.
So despite its numerous cringe-inducing moments and a slew of unbearably inane jokes (most coming from the usually stellar Guzman), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a definitely a fun time to be had for parents with young kids; thanks to a wealth of thrilling action sequences, children will no doubt remain highly entertained throughout and thankfully there's enough fun to be had during the adventure so that adults won't be bored out of their skulls either.
Hardened horror fans should know for themselves whether they're up for this kind of a movie or not.
3 out of 5