Dance like the plot doesn’t matter, sting like a giant bee
February 15, 2012
There’s more wrong with “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” than is indicated by its Jules Verne ripoff title.
As the film opens, Sean (Josh Hutcherson, reprising his role from 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth”) finds an encrypted message he believes was sent by his Grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine), a missing explorer. As luck would have it, Sean’s step-dad, the saintly Hank (Dwayne Johnson), is an award-winning cryptographer capable of decoding the complex message without breaking a sweat.
Sean is the one puzzle that mystifies Hank, who is determined to find acceptance as the lad’s father figure. This explains Hank’s reasons for accompanying Sean on a pricey expedition to locate the unchartered island – and why he smoothes over objections voiced by Sean’s mom (Kristin Davis).
Hank hires hapless helicopter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman), and the pilot’s daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) to fly himself and Sean to the coordinates indicated by Alexander, unaware that the island can be entered only by flying into the eye of an F5 tornado. Though the maneuver breaks the copter to bits, its occupants are gently deposited onto Mysterious Island’s shore.
The most engrossing action sequence follows their landing, when Gabato disturbs the egg clutch of a giant mama lizard. She pursues them through the forest and corners the four before Grandfather Alexander effects a last-minute rescue. In this PG-rated adventure, no serious harm befalls the reptile, nor any person. Sadly, the same can’t be said of our intellect.
The island is populated by tiny elephants and elephant-sized bees, despite its landmass sinking beneath the waves for 70 of each 140 years. Alexander has discovered the island sinks because it rests upon shifting tectonic plates. Worst of all, it’s due to sink once again in 48 hours.
During the mad dash to find Verne’s submarine – stashed somewhere beneath the cliffs, Hank massacres “It’s a Wonderful World,” a classic ruined less by Johnson’s rendition than by its woefully inept new lyrics.
Their race over jagged terrain, and around an erupting volcano spewing pure gold, is enabled by giant honey bees. Yes. That’s right. These apians are surely docile creatures since Alexander disappears into the bush, only to reappear riding one.
The others follow suit, though we never see the method used to wrangle or mount the critters – typical of the numerous shortcuts taken during this film.
In the interest of being entertained, we willingly forgive much, but amiable Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can’t carry off a bouncing pectoral muscles joke, or Hank’s claim they are the surest path to winning a girl’s heart.
Ditto a series of less than juvenile one-liners delivered by Guzman, whose frightened pilot wonders whether a predator would eat “someone wearing poopy pants.”
None of this prevents Sean, Hank and Grandfather Alexander from finally bonding, but in an ideal world this lackluster effort would end any further plundering of Mr. Verne’s novels.