Tuesday, February 07, 2012

'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' review

Hollywood produces lots of bad movies, but there's a particular type of bad movie it does that makes me positively uncomfortable. That would be the children's/family action film in which everybody on screen stands around and either smiles too broadly or delivers lame quips too strenuously. It's like a living version of a laugh track: Everything here is so highly entertaining, the film seems to be saying. Why aren't you having fun? It's so painfully artificial that I have a hard time watching the screen. It's a way of promoting an inane version of real life to young people who aren't old enough to know it's total malarkey.

These were the thoughts bouncing around my brain for most of the 90-something minutes that constitute Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. It's probably silly to have expected anything from this film. Sure, we all love Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson -- sure, Michael Caine can be a hoot -- but the aggressive mediocrity of the whole endeavor is numbing and insulting. But, boy, do people quip with a vengeance.

In my travels, I had neglected to see the first Journey -- that one, Journey to the Center of the Earth, had Brendan Fraser in it -- but that doesn't matter. The two films are linked together by young adventurer Sean (Josh Hutcherson), who this time teams up with the stepfather (Johnson) he can't stand to find an uncharted island that's been discovered by his Indiana Jones-like grandfather (Caine). Sean's love interest (Vanessa Hudgens) and her father (Luis Guzman) tag along, too, and soon the gang is being chased by big lizards and bees and electric eels.

Journey 2 was directed by Brad Peyton, who previously brought us another unwanted sequel, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. (Like Journey 2, that was also in 3D.) If Peyton's not careful, he's going to wholly corner the market on fitfully dull kids' action movies. This one has a little more excitement than Kitty Galore, but like too many action flicks geared to younger people, it walks this weird line between simplistic emotional manipulation and adult scariness. (Way too many critters jump at the camera for shock value.) From moment to moment, I wasn't sure what audience Journey 2 was going after, although it is my sincere hope that some boys on the cusp of puberty will adopt the Rock's advice to Sean about popping your pecs to impress a girl. Anything to help get our nation's kids in shape.

And since the film isn't sufficiently fun or exciting or clever enough to sustain interest, my mind wandered all over the place. Geez, the effects in this thing are pretty substandard. Wow, Vanessa Hudgens' people must be thrilled that she walks around this whole movie wearing a cut-too-low tank top. Man, Hutcherson was so good in The Kids Are All Right and such a waste in this. Why does Johnson have such a low opinion of his talent that he agrees to these sorts of throwaway films? And when is this thing over so I can go home?