Brendan Fraser, star of the first Journey (To The Center Of The Earth), decided to miss this sequel but he is replaced by the more than capable Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, playing Hank, stepdad to kid Sean (Hutcherson) from the original movie. This time around, Sean has received a radio message he thinks is from his explorer grandpa (Caine, perfect as the eccentric old bloke), and he’s so determined to track him down that Hank agrees (and coughs up the cash for the trip) so long as he gets to come along. It seems Sean’s granddad is a Vernian (someone who believes Jules Verne’s stories weren’t fiction but fact) who had spent years trying to track down Verne’s Mysterious Island. Could he have found it? With a batty helicopter pilot (Luis Gusman) and his daughter (Hudgens) in tow, they set off over the Pacific, get caught up in a freak storm and crash land on an island that’s not portrayed on any maps. Ooooo.
Packed with fun CGI creatures – on this mysterious island, big animals are small and small are large, so there are cat-sized elephants and car-sized bees – this is even more fun than the first movie as our explorers run from lizard-y dinosaurs, fly giant bees (amusing for older viewers who remember Caine being terrorised by regular ones in the 1978 thriller The Swarm) and discover ancient ruins from a well known lost city.
The casting is great, too. Caine and Johnson (playing an ex-marine who seems to have all the skills needed to survive in such an odd place) are both terrific, especially when they are snarking at each other, while a possible romance between the two younger cast members never gets soppy or smoochy thanks to Hudgens’ tough chick performance.
Of course, it’s all a bit silly (can someone explain how they steer the bees, for starters?) and some scenes are borrowed wholesale from films such as Jurassic Park and Independence Day, but it’s a great introduction to adventure movies for kids who may be too young for scarier dinosaur flicks and sci-fi adventures. A family treat.
Is Journey 2: The Mysterious Island suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The filmmakers have cleverly made this enjoyable without being too frightening – kids will never feel the characters may die, and there is no ‘bad guy’ for them to be scared of.
While there is a giant spider at one point, it is only shown for a few seconds.
Very young children may find the dinosaur who hisses at Sean and Hank and chases them quite scary, but the scene isn’t very long.