*This does contain some minor spoilers*
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth; you know that movie with Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem, and director Eric Brevig all of which didn’t return for the sequel. Fraser didn’t want to return unless Brevig was back in the director’s chair, but Brevig had his hands full with Yogi Bear when Warner Bros was ready to go for the sequel. So Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore director Brad Peyton stepped in and we have an entirely new cast other than Josh Hutcherson, which includes the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Luis Guzmán, and Vanessa Hudgens. The result is a visual effects heavy amalgamation of corny dialogue and forced feel-good moments.
Journey 2 was actually preceded by a new 3D computer animated Looney Tunes short entitled “Daffy’s Rhapsody.” A quick trivia note is that they actually dug through the archives and resurrected a Mel Blanc audio track to be featured in the short. So the legendary voice actor is back as Daffy Duck and Billy West steps in as Elmer Fudd. The short itself was very well done since it was brilliantly animated and made full use of the 3D technology. As a Looney Tunes fan, it was a welcome change of pace to see Daffy actually being Daffy again. I’m a huge Daffy Duck fan and while his run-ins with Bugs Bunny are hilarious Daffy eventually became second fiddle to Bugs and evolved into this greedy goofball. In earlier shorts, he was flat out crazy and that personality fit him best. It’s almost as if the character is returning to his roots here. Also, when is the last time you saw Elmer Fudd hunt solely Daffy Duck without Bugs being involved at all? I was very pleased with Daffy’s Rhapsody over all, especially in comparison to the recent 3D Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner shorts.
Returning to Journey 2 though, the movie immediately lost me in the opening credits as the score seemed to disrespectfully rip-off the famous theme to Jurassic Park. It doesn’t take long for the corny dialogue to slap you in the face either. The phrase, “Here we go,” should never be uttered in the face of danger or at all really. From the HDTV line to pretty much everything Gabby (Luis Guzmán) says throughout their endless string of adventures, Journey 2 will have you rolling your eyes and facepalming yourself more often than you can count. Characters seem to repeat words over and over again, as well. Dwayne Johnson is the guiltiest of this as his dialogue is pretty painful at times. Shall we bring up “thundercookie” or the “popping the pecs” scene that was only thrown in there for a cheap 3D effect?
Maybe it’s because a Looney Tunes short was attached to the movie, but Journey 2 certainly borrowed from classic Looney Tunes shorts on more than one occasion. When they first arrive on the island, Gabby thinks he’s been cut in half but it turns out the lower half of his body is just buried beneath the sand. This sequence is awfully reminiscent of a scene in “Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid” and this scene in particular. Gabby also discovers a rock made of pure gold and essentially has almost an identical reaction as Bugs Bunny in “Barbary Coast Bunny.” Even the camera placement is similar, so it had to be done on purpose. It honestly felt more like blasphemy than homage though.
I guess the hip thing to do with movies anymore is to make the majority of the cast as intolerable as possible, especially when it comes to family features. Nearly every male in the Anderson family is a snarky, smart aleck, prick; Michael Caine and Josh Hutcherson being the sole offenders. Alexander (Caine) already looks to have raided Indiana Jones’ wardrobe and even uses that familiar sounding Jurassic Park-like theme when he first shows up. He spends the entire movie ripping on Hank (Dwayne Johnson). Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) is the same way though in the way she gives Sean (Hutcherson) the cold shoulder, so maybe the aim was to write everyone like a seventeen year old girl. Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson tries to cram as much of his The Rock personality into a PG persona as he can and even sings a little number that is actually pretty darn good.
Journey 2 relies on slow-mo to drive all of its biggest moments home and thanks to movies like 300 has made it all the more obvious in the movies that have followed suit. Even though the entire adventure is basically a race against time, it’s like the characters always make time to try and be witty or funny or clever. It just rubs you the wrong way. “Quit standing around in the dark trying to amuse yourself and get out of that damn cave before it collapses on your scrawny butt,” you’ll say to yourself before throwing the nearest toddler at the screen in frustration. If that isn’t the case, they manage to cram these family, touchy-feely moments in at the most inopportune time. “I know you’re about to wrestle a giant electric eel, but I just want you to know that me being a hard headed douchebag towards you this entire time was my way of saying I love you.” There’s more than one comment about being killed after they die, as well. “If we die out there, mom is going to kill us.” “If we get ripped to shreds, I’m going to kill you.” But you’ll already be dead, so who cares? And apparently, being in the Navy means you automatically become “MacGyver.” If that’s the case, send me a brochure.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island wasn’t quite as terrible as I expected it to be. A few of the jokes are mildly amusing and some of the special effects sequences are actually pretty entertaining. In the long run though, it still can’t pass as a good film. Its lame humor gets on your last nerve, its feel-good moments make you want to gag, you can tell that everything was done in front of a green screen, and the writing is downright terrible the majority of the time (“THE LIQUEFICATION RATE TRIPLED OVERNIGHT!”). Why did Sean know so much about the island to begin with? Did he read the books over and over again throughout his childhood? Did he watch a lot of National Geographic and the Discovery Channel? Imagine taking a few of the halfway entertaining sequences from the original National Treasure and combining them with the absolute worst moments from the Land of the Lost film starring Will Ferrell and you have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for. In the next movie, I only hope that Brendan Fraser returns and challenges The Rock to a wrestling match…IN SPACE!