Friday, February 10, 2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 3-D

Adventures On Laughingstock Island

Buffoon central: Michael Caine as Alexander and Luis Guzmán as Gabato aka Bozo the Clown, in Brad Peyton's comedy adventure "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 3-D". 
Warner Brothers


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, February 10
, 2012

In theaters in the U.S. and Canada today, Brad Peyton's fantasy family adventure "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 3-D" serves as a lighthearted joyful escapade of foolishness and incoherence, not to be taken seriously but to be instantly forgotten.  This kind-of-sequel to the Jules Verne classic novel and film adaptation "Journey To The Center Of The Earth" -- I confess that I've seen neither the 2008 or 1959 editions -- is enjoyable, funny and charismatic if nothing else.

Josh Hutcherson ("The Kids Are All Right") is the lone returning figure from the 2008 movie and the only one who takes the proceedings seriously -- too seriously, perhaps.  When inventor and explorer Grandpa Alexander Anderson (Michael Caine) goes wandering off on a strange island, Sean (Mr. Hutcherson) teams up with stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson) to find him.  They, along with Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) and her father Gabato (Luis Guzmán) find Anderson, and a place that resembles Atlantis, where rising waters threaten to submerge them all within a few short days.  Ever the loving father, Gabato wants to make sure Kailani gets to college, and he'll try anything to make it happen.

The film's 3-D is functional enough to be adequate and works best in comedy routines involving Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hutcherson.  The former is an onscreen father figure to the latter, and the tension that comes with adolescence and living with the new boyfriend to Sean's mother Liz (Kristin Davis, sadly glimpsed ever-so-briefly here) is the biggest high-stakes theater of an otherwise sleepy, shiny happy people mess.  Oddly, I managed to enjoy this spectacle much more than I thought possible, despite its shortcomings.  (The film's 90 minute running time may be chiefly responsible.)  Mr. Johnson parodies himself on occasion, combining comedy with the can-do-tough guy attitude audiences have naturally come to expect whenever the muscular actor appears in a film.  He's always fresh and witty, even when he's familiar.

Despite a lackluster story and script by brothers Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn and numerous "strange" moments or inconsistencies -- large eggs on land that are close together when the intrepid group are trying to find Alexander suddenly have enormous spaces between them when the group is on the run from imminent peril -- "Journey 2" allows itself many laughs, although too much of them come at the expense of Mr. Guzmán's Gabato, an all-too sad advertisement for buffoonery, plasticity and stereotype if there ever was one. 

While Mr. Guzmán, like the rest of the cast, is clearly having a good time, his exaggerated act and nervous ninny whine grows tiresome and more self-degrading by the minute.  The talented character actor is both the film's prankster epicenter and its biggest sour note, though in a maddening way one can't help but laugh at and with him, if only for five minutes.  The film's story, hardly a model of clarity, culminating in its sudden shift six months into the future without any sense of where the story stands in the present, is the plainest case of "rush this turkey past the editor" one can devise.   (There's plenty of material from the "Avatar" cutting room floor, or maybe the "Avatar" material is from the "Journey" 2008 cutting room floor.  All I know is, those noisy lizard thingy-things simply can't keep quiet.)

There are playful barbs between Mr. Caine and Mr. Johnson, who effortlessly ping-pong light insults and other assorted rejoinders off each other long enough to sustain the amount of merriment and mirth necessary to distract the audience from the donut hole plot and storyline.  If the 3-D can mesmerize, and the cast can create sufficient mayhem, and there's at least one close-up shot of Ms. Hudgens' rear-end, cleavage and mid-rift, then 15-year-old boys will be happy.

By the way, I'd ask those same 15-year-olds: ever tried swimming with a dislocated ankle?  How about underwater?  If not, they should give it the old not-quite college try and emulate our boy Sean -- who has either slipped a lifetime supply of morphine into his system that the 3-D effects hid or has taken some major league Quaaludes or there's BP Gulf Coast 2010 amounts of anesthetic in that mythical ole Atlantis water.

With: Anna Colwell.

"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 3-D" is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some adventure action and, brief mild language.  The film's running time is one hour and 34 minutes. 

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