Premiering this weekend on HBO was this year’s “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman and Michael Caine, this “family friendly” film posits that Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island” actually exists.
When a young man gets a coded transmission from his adventurer grandfather, he and his stepfather head off in search of the legendary island, only to discover more than they bargained for. Along with the family crew of the downed helicopter they chartered to get them there, they’ll have to find a way not only to survive, but to escape the “Mysterious Island”.
Aimed squarely at kids, this film needs to be given a little bit of slack for its juvenile sensibilities and slight characters. But not too much…
Sean (Josh Hutcherson) is a teen who’s recently been moved, due to his mother’s new marriage. He’s been standoffish so far with his stepfather (Dwayne Johnson), Hank, so when Hank has the opportunity to use his military training to help him decode a message, he does so enthusiastically. It turns out that the message is from Sean’s grandfather, and contains clues to the whereabouts of the legendary “Mysterious Island” Jules Verne wrote of. Seeing an opportunity to bond with his stepson, Hank takes Sean to Palau to try to obtain charter and actually find the island. The location is dangerous, however, and reputable captains turn them down. The only one brave/foolish to take them is Gabato (Luis Guzman), the pilot of a ramshackle helicopter, and his daughter Kalani (Vanessa Hudgens).
It’s soon revealed why no one would take them… the island is surrounded by a massive wall of storms. Sure enough, the helicopter is destroyed and the passengers are marooned on the island. There, they find a world of exotic plant species and overgrown insects and lizards. It’s beautiful, yet dangerous. Thankfully, Sean’s grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine) is already there to help them avoid the pitfalls. One thing none of them are prepared for is the fact that the island is sinking. So now not only do they need to avoid giant carnivorous creatures, they need to find a way off the island before it sinks back into the sea.
“Journey 2” is a film that’s obviously aimed at a younger audience and/or families, so the action sequences are safe and harmless, and the plot is simple enough for a 7 year old to follow. The humor involved, what there is of it, is derived from Luis Guzman and sanitized bickering between Johnson and Caine. There’s also a pre-tween friendly romance between Hutcherson and Hudgens.
Even given taking the family friendly aspect into account, however “Journey 2” is a slight and unsubstantial film. I suppose if you have a child that is just the right age, there may be some value here, but for most audiences, there will be nothing of worth here. Even the CGI seems to be dumbed down. The cast is given nothing whatsoever to work with, and but they smile and soldier on. The premise of finding a magical island with enormous creatures is almost completely wasted, with only a couple of brief, silly chase sequences to show for it.
Given the fact that this movie is aimed at families with young kids, I’m willing to cut it a mild amount of slack… but as I said, not too much.