Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

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When I first saw the trailer for Journey 2 I experienced a mild philosophical roller-coaster.  It's not often that you get a sequel to a Brandon Fraser film considering he's been spending the last few years making movies that deserve to go direct-to-DVD.  That means I would be guaranteed to review them instead of it being a looming threat, which Journey 2 remained save for one bright spot.

That bright spot is Dwayne Johnson, a man who seems to be slowly pissing away his potential superstardom by choice instead of creating a reputation of arrogance that Fraser did.  Ryan and I will go on at length for far too long about how great The Rundown is and he was the only decent part of the otherwise wretched Be Cool.

So when he appeared on-screen to give his son (Josh Hutcherson) some romantic advice I started to smile.  When he started demonstrating the advice by popping his pecs repeatedly the chuckles started.  Then I had to let go and let the laughs flow when Luis Guzman entered the frame with a handful of berries to throw at his chest while Johnson popped away.  It was just the kind of ridiculous sight gag I love, well aware of Johnson's natural machismo, and having a lot of fun with it.

Now having sat through the other eighty five minutes when Johnson is not popping his pecs, I've come to the sad conclusion that life is not all pec pops and thunder cookies.

This being a sequel in spirit only, you don't have to delve into the previous film but it wouldn't hurt to at least have passing knowledge of some adventure books of old.  The biggest candidate is, obviously, Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island but fans of The Swiss Family Robinson or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea may find something to recognize.  But the way the film is pitched you don't have to have read them just know they exist and that someone thought about them once or twice while making the movie.

It's one of those kid films which tries to suck out as much intelligence as possible.  This is especially evident in the opening scene where the unruly son breaks into a satellite facility and then has a motorcycle chase ending in a pool just so he could get some codes.  I'm not exactly looking for intelligence on the level of Wall-E here, but producing such a convoluted reason for a rock score and police cars to enter the film to establish some abandonment issues.

Yes, this is all to set up the scene where papa comes, son says "You're not my father" and the two work out their differences by ripping out pages of old books and solving a decades-old puzzle by using some vaguely defined Navy training.  So they fly over to the other side of the world, hire a pilot (Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), discover the island and the son's long-lost grandfather (Michael Caine), and have fantastic adventures.

You won't find as much analysis here as in my other reviews because that's about it for the movie.  The crew runs from something larger then them, stops to talk about the environment, and that's it.  The story repeats those two beats with very little variation aside from the scenery as they'll be running through water one second then over eggs the next.  I have some issues with the dialogue, having Johnson call Caine an old woman and Caine decrying Johnson's intelligence in return, but that cycles back to the laziness present from frame one.

The scenery is dull and for a movie whose central conceit is finding a new and wonderful place that's unacceptable.  The visual style boils down to making all the animals you know are small, big, and reversing the process for larger beasts.  This did make for two fun perspective tricks when the crew first gets on the island, but nothing else of interest is done.  For all the build up, reversing animal sizes and adding a tree or two designed by a lazy Dr. Seuss is a bit disheartening.

Director Brad Peyton's previous film was Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore which, by all accounts, should have been as bad as this one.  But that film managed to make the most of its references and sent them to the audience in a barrage of puns and blink-or-you'll-miss-it visual gags.  There's plenty of room in the adventure books a la Verne to include this kind of detail, but no one bothered.

We close on the promise of a third film.  The only request I have is to get Peyton back to direct, Fraser to star, and we'll see just how much dead space two creators fight to fill.  If they can't make a good Journey movie, maybe it's time for some Warhol-esque antifilms to take America by storm.

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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

Directed by Brad Peyton.
Screenplay by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman, and Michael Caine.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. Yes, The Rundown is one of the most underrated films of the last 15 years. This movie sounds a lot like another Rock picture “Race To Witch Mountain” where the movie wasn’t so bad but horribly dull and uninspired. I think that when he is in the right movie (The Rundown, Fast Five, Walking Tall) no one could do the part better but if he is in something bad (Doom, Witch Mountain) he gets swallowed up in the movie without being able to elevate the movie. I hope that more directors like Peter Berg work with him in the future because he is an actor that I really have fun watching him do his thing.

  2. I agree with you, but here’s the snag – he elevates even the bad films, it’s just a sign of exactly how many movies would have been completely horrible without him. That’s why I think the comparison for this with the original Journey is interesting, because Brendan Fraser did not elevate it in the slightest, but here Dwayne Johnson is able to at least make it more interesting by pure virtue of being onscreen. That’s why I highlighted the horrible possibility of Fraser working with Brad Peyton again.

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