Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis
Written by: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn, and Richard Outten
Directed by: Brad Peyton
MPAA Rating: PG for some adventure action, and brief mild language
Running Time: 94
Date: 01/19/2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Crash and Verne

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Teen adventurer Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), from the fun Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), returns to this 3D sequel, though he's the only one to have done so.

None of the other cast members, writers or directors showed up for this one, and it's fairly clear as to why.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is as clumsy and clunky as its title, a slapdash effort that feels forced together rather than lovingly created.

Having survived his trip to the center of the earth, Sean lives with his mom (Kristin Davis) and his new stepdad, Hank (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).

Sean is now obsessed with another Jules Verne tale, The Mysterious Island (published in 1875). He receives a secret transmission from his absent grandfather about the island's location. Looking for some bonding time, Hank volunteers to go with him.

In Palau, they rent a ramshackle helicopter and hire its equally ramshackle pilot, Gabato (Luis Guzman). Happily for Sean, Gabato's pretty daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) comes with the deal.

Once they find the island, it's a race against time to get off again.

The island itself is more "mildly diverting" than mysterious, decorated with lazy computer-generated effects, such as tiny elephants, giant bees and sprawling landscapes.

If great effects are often described as "seamless," the effects here are very much "with seams." And, typically, the 3D effects are really only used on a couple of throwaway "comin' at ya" moments.

This is the second feature for director Brad Peyton, after Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.

The movie has a wide-open, sunny, cheerful feel, and Peyton seems dead set on a fast pace, but he throws away everything to get that page: logic, rhythm, tone, characters, etc.

In one scene, Sean throws a hissy fit because Hank won't allow him to detour to a special volcano, even when Sean knows all too well about their time limit and impending doom. That's what passes for a character arc in this movie.

However, this is the only movie in which you'll see former wrestler Johnson playing a ukulele and singing "What a Wonderful World." You'll also see berries bouncing off of his flexing pectorals. That's entertainment.

Far better is Daffy's Rhapsody, a terrific new Elmer Fudd vs. Daffy Duck cartoon, placing new digital cartoons over an old song recorded by the late Mel Blanc. It's sharp, nimble, and funny -- everything the feature is not.

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