Based (very) loosely on Jules Verne’s classic novel The Mysterious Island, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, another film based very loosely on another Jules Verne novel. While the basic concept of the original novel is there, the film is set in modern day. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. While it will not be winning any end of year awards, it is not a terrible movie. It is also not a very good one. This is the film equivalent of Chinese food. It’s pretty darned good while watching it, but an hour after it is forgotten.
Sean and his stepfather, Hank, have a strained relationship. Sean doesn’t like Hank and Hank is trying his hardest to be a good role model for his stepson. When Sean gets in trouble with the law after breaking into a satellite research center, Hank and Sean crack a secret code sent by Sean’s grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine). They discover that the island in Jules Verne’s novel The Mysterious Island is a real place. In an attempt to bond with his stepson, Hank takes Sean on a trip that leads them to The Mysterious Island. The only problem? The island is sinking and they have no way to communicate with the outside world or get off the island. Along with their tour guide Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his daughter Kalani (Vanessa Hudgens), the four of them must trek across the sinking island to find the Nautilus from Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a submarine that is their only hope of survival.
This is one of those films that is difficult to categorize. It is an adventure film, but it is also a children’s film. When I say children’s film, though, I don’t mean that in a condescending way. While it doesn’t tackle any tough issues, it is entertaining for adults as well. It doesn’t pander to children and that makes it more accessible to adults as well. While the adventure aspects of the film are loosely held together with nary a plot to keep the scenes moving, they are strung in such a way as to keep the film trekking at a brisk pace. The film is really a no brainer. You just have to watch the scenes as they unfold and not really worry about missing some of the plot. Of course, you don’t want to miss the ‘pec pop of love’ which is one of the funniest moments in the movie.
While all of the actors in the film did an admirable job and didn’t just coast through this spectacle film, I must make special note of Dwayne Johnson. Over the years since his WWE turn as The Rock and his acting debut as The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, he has made leaps and bounds in his acting ability. While there is nothing in his performance here that would generate any awards consideration, he does sell the role of being a stepfather just trying to get acceptance and the approval of his stepson. There are a couple of scenes in which Hutcherson and Johnson sell the relationship very well and you become invested in their characters and their plight on the island.
One big bonus while watching this film was how interested my son was in it. At just over 2 years old, he doesn’t have much of an attention span. He sat on my lap while I watched this and watched a majority of it with me. It is a very bright, colorful film and he seemed to enjoy it almost as much as I did. He laughed at things happening on screen, pointed at some things and said “See that?”, but he didn’t like the big lizard that chased the group early in the film. When it popped up, he jumped off my lap, ran to the screen pointed at it and whined. As soon as the lizard was gone, he climbed back on my lap and watched some more. What better praise can I give a film than that?
While it won’t be entered into any awards considerations, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a fun romp that you can watch with your kids and not be worried about anything offensive. The film moves at a brisk pace jumping from one adventure scene to another and doesn’t get bogged down in an overly detailed plot. It is just a fun film that I found surprisingly enjoyable. While you may not remember it in an hour, it is still silly enough for kids and you may find your adult self having as much fun as they do.
**1/2 out of ****