By Gary Murray

Starring Dwayne Johnson, John Hutcherson, Michael Caine, Luis Guzman and Vanessa Hudgens

Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn

Very loosely based on Jules Verne

Directed by Brad Peyton

Running time 94 min

MPAA Rating PG

Selig Film Rating Matinee

Jules Verne was one of the greatest ‘imagination’ authors of his generation.  Basically the man invented the fantastic story that became science fiction.  There are still millions of fans of his novels 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Mysterious Island.  In 2008 Brendan Fraser starred in the 3D adventure of Journey to the Center of the Earth, a re-imaging of the tale.  Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is the sequel.

The only major character from the first film is Sean (Josh Hutcherson).  He’s a bright kid who is not happy at home.  His mom Liz (Kristen Davis in a cameo) has remarried Hank Dwayne Johnson), a former Navy man who tries to form a relationship with Sean.  One night, Sean picks up a mysterious broadcast message that Hank easily cracks.  The message seems to be coming from Sean’s grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine).  Alexander has been on a lifelong search to find the actual mysterious island referred to in the Verne work.  Before one can blink, the two men are off on an epic adventure.

Once in the South Pacific, the two charter a helicopter piloted by Gabato (Luis Guzman) who has a daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens).  The quartet travel the coordinates listed which goes into a major storm.   The helicopter crashes and the four find themselves on The Mysterious Island.  It is a place where elephants are the size of small dogs and bees are so large that one can ride them.  The four very soon find Alexander and realize that the island is doomed.  The group of five must now find a way off the island before it sinks back into the sea.  The film ties many of Verne’s literary places and ideas into the mix of story.

A film like this one is not an acting juggernaut, not so much of a challenge.  But, Dwayne Johnson seems to be having a blast in his role as Hank.  He has this smirk on his mug that always hits to the back row of the theater.  He knows that this is a silly little part and plays it with certain over the top flair.  Hank shows Sean how to attract women by flexing his pectoral muscles, something the slight Josh Hutcherson could never do.

Josh Hutcherson is our true lead and takes the mantle with a strong reading.  He is the wide eyed kid who must eventually become a man on this adventure.  It is simple in both character arc and motivation but still works on a juvenile story level.

Vanessa Hudgens isn’t given much to do other than look good, which she does to an amazing degree.  On more than one occasion, she becomes our damsel in distress.  Sean must use his smarts to save her even though she seems capable of doing it on her own.  It is a charming little piece and a simple little role.

The problem with the film is that there are not that many adventures in the adventure story.  Though it looks great, there are more than a few moments where not much happens.  The giant set piece with the lizard and the chase on the backs of bees are the two big set pieces and are very far apart in the screenplay.  The film needed a few more moments of danger.  One never believes that anyone is in true peril and that everyone will get out okay.  This is basically a kid’s film with all the 3D tricks one would expect.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is very much a family style adventure with all the thrills and chills of an amusement park ride.  It is not an Academy winning flick but a kids flick, something to check your mind at the door and enjoy.


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