Monday, June 04, 2012

"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island"- Kid-Friendly Fare by Rote

I make a lot of noise about being a parent and my search for kid-friendly movies. But if I'm being honest I have to add the caveat that my ideal movie is something that combines fantasy with its child-oriented vibe.  And when the film has the added bonus of starring Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, it's guaranteed that I'll give the movie a shot.

"Journey 2" is essentially a sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, though the only starring character to return is that of Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) and the plot to this film is self-contained enough to be watched without any knowledge of the prior installment. The film opens with a quick action sequence where Sean is attempting to evade the police on a motorcycle after breaking into a satellite research center. After being escorted home by his step-father Hank (Johnson) he reveals that he was trying to pick up a signal sent by his grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine). Hank, in an attempt to bond with Sean, helps him crack the code and they learn about the location of a mysterious island that was the inspiration for books by Jonathan Swift, Jules Verne and Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Sean's mother Liz (Kristin Davis) is understandably reluctant to let Sean go chasing off after his unreliable grandfather, but Hank convinces her to let him take Sean to the region where the island is supposedly located so that Sean can see for himself that it doesn't exist. The coordinates from the broadcast lead them to the region of Palau where they hire a helicopter pilot Gabato (Luiz Guzman) and his pretty daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) to take them to the island. Not long after they take to the air they are caught in a vicious storm and decide to head back, but a lightening strike downs the helicopter and they crash on the very island they were trying to find.

Unsurprisingly they all survive the crash and begin to explore the island- which soon reveals its incredible beauty and uncanny nature as they come across miniature elephants, giant bees and a gold-spewing volcano. They get into trouble with a giant lizard before being rescued by Sean's grandfather, who then takes them on a tour of the island and they discover that they've also found the lost island of Atlantis-- and the unfortunate fact that they're trapped on the island with only a couple of days left before it sinks into the ocean once again.

"Journey 2" is like a lot of kid's films in that it is very busy. It aims to connect a visual adventure with classic literature and I give it points for trying to get kids interested in stories like "Treasure Island" and "Gulliver's Travels." But it has such a kitchen-sink nature that involves too many elements from too many stories that the original point seems to get lost along the way. It's the kind of film that might have worked in an "Indiana Jones" fashion, but the script relies so heavily on deus-ex-machina moments to move it along that you have to be very young, or very credulous, to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the ride.

If the film has any strong points it has to be the cast and the visuals. In most respects the cast is too good for the weak script. Johnson is charismatic as always, though required to be uncomfortably earnest at times, and shows off an impressive singing ability in a cute sequence where he sings an impromptu version of "It's a Wonderful World." Hutcherson makes the most of the rebellious teenager role and Hudgens is very good at putting his character in his place- as only a teenage girl can. Michael Caine is first-rate as always and the banter he shares with Johnson is a lot of fun. Guzman, as Lailani's father, somehow makes his role as the requisite goofball less of a cliché than I would have thought possible.

Visually the film is very pretty- though sometimes it looks like something out of a book by Dr. Suess. The action is suspenseful enough to keep the younger audience engaged without being too scary (a plus) but some of the slow-motion close calls are a bit silly and very obviously computer generated.

"Journey 2" is a film your kids will enjoy because it's simple to follow and has a lot of visual appeal. Adult audiences will likely find it mildly entertaining but too formulaic to really engage their interest. The "message" part of the movie, where Sean realizes his step-father Hank is really the ideal kind of dad thanks to his stand-up, reliable nature is nice- but convenient. And ultimately that's the main word I would use to describe the whole film-- convenient. Everything, from solving the code, going to the island, finding Sean's grandfather and getting off the island, fits together so neatly that the characters never have to work too hard to accomplish anything. So, while it's a sweet movie you can let your youngest child watch, it's not something you're likely to want to see more than once.

1 comment:

Blodeuedd said...

I watched it too and I must agree with every single thing you say