In this adventure, a more mature Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) is back on another quest to find yet another lost relative at the centre of the Earth, his grandfather (played by Michael Caine), after receiving a coded message from him. Reluctantly accepting help from his mum’s enthusiastic new partner, Hank Parsons (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), the pair decodes the message and finds the hidden location of a mystery island through the classics of Jules Verne, Jonathan Swift and Robert Louis Stevenson. But getting to the island will prove tricky and highly dangerous, and the pair enlists the help of pilot Gabato (Luis Guzmán) and his attractive and smart teenage daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) who get ‘sucked’ into the bizarre rescue.
As such ideas and mythical vistas have been seen and recreated before, Journey 2 is inevitably predictable in a respectful, copycat Jurassic Park/Avatar kind of way – even down to florescent forest toadstools from the latter. However, it bounds along on a flurry of enthusiastic energy and silly but amusing frolics and familiar squabbles between Hank and Anderson Sr, never taking itself too seriously. In turn, it provides ample family fun with good clean jokes that neither bore the adults or sore over the kids’ heads.
It also aims to spark literary inquisitiveness that will have the youngsters checking out all the old adventure classics that its own journey is based on, including the lost City of Atlantis. In addition, and as with any film in this genre, it is peppered with lessons to be learnt and appreciation for your elders – even if Caine as Anderson Sr. is as unreliable as they come, and looks like an aging rocker at the end. It also has its faults when dealing with scaling of its animals in this new world (big animals are small, and vice versa) – just check out Anderson Sr.’s fireflies illuminating his abode that remain normal size.
The casting of beefy Rock – still a man giant from Fast & Furious 5 last year – with a toned Hutcherson acting alongside Hudgens in the tiniest of shorts and vest top and with curls to die for is designed to titillate and provide the glamour among the forest undergrowth. If nothing else, this display of youthful virility will thrust Hutcherson into the hormonal and rather over-crowded teen spotlight currently occupied by the Twilight boys. Boy-next-door Hutcherson has an appealing integrity about him that carries through from the first film, even though he endearingly struggles with teenage angst and bad chat-up lines this time around. Still, he can handle bee flying – another unoriginal nod to another kids’ film classic, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.
As for the 3D, it seems to have been deployed in this film merely to allow The Rock to do his party trick of firing virtual berries in our faces using pecks power alone – and it gets some giggles. Intimidating in size but as soft a playful puppy dog, the only really disconcerting feature of Johnson’s appearance is his oddly placed nipples that provided a fascinating, if horrifying distraction in the drearier moments. Still, the actor’s comic timing laced with sarcasm is in full supply in this, and he produces some comedy moments with Guzmán and Caine as the grown men try to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of making a quick escape. Apart from that, the 3D is just a nice, visually enhancing factor, but hardly earth-shatteringly important to the story context, so you decide whether you wish to spend the extra money when paying for a family cinema outing.
As foreseen as the ending is, it’s the journey taken that is key, in generating the laughs and the life lessons along the way. Journey 2 may not offer any exciting new premise to the genre and is not without its continuity errors, but its appealing cast has a great chemistry and an infectious team spirit that gives you a buzz and entertains you right until the corny and equally predictable finale.