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Review: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Even Dwayne Johnson can't save this one…

 

If there’s a lesson to be learned from Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, it’s that Dwayne Johnson can make any movie watchable, even Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. And that’s no small feat. The special effects-laden sequel to 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth is a pretty awful film that uses imaginative set pieces to obscure the fact that it has no story whatsoever. There’s an island, alright. It’s pretty mysterious. Now watch as Luis Guzman flicks berries at The Rock’s chest! Watch, you stupid monkeys, and pay us for the privilege! Mwa-hahahahaha!

The plot… er, sequence of events… finds Josh Hutcherson receiving a secret communiqué from his grandfather, Michael Caine, who claims to have found the “Mysterious Island” that Jules Verne wrote about in 1874. Hutcherson declares himself a “Vernian,” which the film claims is a secret society of investigators who believe that everything Jules Verne wrote about is 100% true. He also gets pretty indignant about it, which is a strange attitude given the dubious nature of conspiracy theory, which Google doesn’t seem to think exists in real life. But Hutcherson ropes his stepfather, Dwayne Johnson, into the quest and hires a tour guide, Luis Guzman, to take them to the island. And just for the sake of putting her in tiny shorts (appreciated in IMAX 3D), Guzman’s daughter Vanessa Hudgens goes along for the ride.

Before long, they’ve arrived at the Mysterious Island, found Michael Caine, and discover that they have to leave before it all sinks in a matter of days. So they walk across the island in order to leave. That’s it, folks. They walk. Occasionally they run from giant lizards, or ride giant bees, but those are just set pieces with no connection to the actual characters. There’s no conflict between the heroes, no villain to stop. The closest thing they have to an argument stems from Michael Caine refusing to call Dwayne Johnson by his preferred nickname. The closest thing to a theme is an occasionally tacked-on absentee father anecdote, which is in no way connected to the film’s events beyond the infrequent line of dialogue about it. It’s like somebody strung together a list of set pieces and told somebody else to just shut up, shoot it in 3D and hope the raw charisma of The Rock would save the day. And to his credit, he almost does, but believe it or not, it took at least three people to write the script for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. You’d think at least one of them would have been able to string together some kind of narrative.

Oh sure, it’s tempting to write Journey 2 off as harmless, good-natured fun, but lots of things are tempting. It’s tempting to cheat on your taxes, watch porn on your office computer and eat nothing but deep-fried Twinkies, but you shouldn’t actually do any of that. The only defense for this movie is to say that it’s not actually “trying” to be good, but that doesn’t make any sense. Are we supposed to applaud just because they set the bar low and barely reached it? If you told the world, “I’m going to do nothing but watch TV all day and eat Cheetos,” and you actually did it, it’s not like you’d deserve some kind of medal when you were done. You were lazy, you accomplished nothing, and while there are certainly less enjoyable ways to spend the day, you obviously wasted your time. And in the case of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, you also wasted millions of dollars, even if it does look pretty good on an IMAX screen.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is preceded by a new short that stars two of the Looney Tunes characters, but which has no right whatsoever to call itself an actual Looney Tune. Daffy’s Rhapsody isn’t funny, but beyond that it translates both the title character and Elmer Fudd into 3D grotesqueries that are difficult to look at, let alone enjoy. The realistic feathers on Daffy's body only call attention to the fact that in a three-dimensional space he’d be nothing short of an abomination. Let us never speak of it again.