Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)
★★ / ★★★★
Sean (Josh Hutcherson) had broken into a satellite facility which got him in trouble with the authorities. Naturally, Mom (Kristin Davis) was upset but Sean resented his stepfather, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), for caring because the teen believed it wasn’t Hank’s place to act as a parent. However, Sean’s animosity toward his stepdad seemed to dissipate considerably when the former Navy broke the code which mentioned that “The Mysterious Island” in Jules Verne’s novel existed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Sean felt compelled to visit the island because he was convinced that his grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine), was the one who sent the code. Based on the screenplay by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, listening to the dialogue of “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” was like enduring nails scraping on a chalkboard for an hour and a half. While it was understandable that some of the jokes were cheesy because the bulk of the material was intended for young children, there weren’t enough witticisms for adults to remain interested divorced from the impressive chase sequences, full of vibrant colors and striptease of danger, between the gargantuan animals on the island and our protagonists. The sequence which involved the characters jumping from one giant but fragile lizard egg to another managed to balance comedy and suspense. Although the balancing act wasn’t quite consistent, it was fun because we knew that it was only a matter of time until the maternal lizard woke up and attacked. The same applied to the scene where the characters rode bees and hungry birds hunted for their lunch. Sometimes it was quite easy to tell which stunts were performed in front of a green screen, but I imagine children wouldn’t be as discerning. For me, what mattered was the energy of the scene and the risks the filmmakers were willing to take for the sake of entertainment. There were some risks that were taken here. Some paid off but others did not. Speaking of the latter, Sean and Hank hired Gabato (Luis Guzmán), a pilot, and his daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), to take them to the island of interest. While Guzmán provided some laughs on the level of physical humor, Hudgens was not given anything special. Hudgens, in my opinion, is not a very expressive actor in the first place and not giving her something to work with only highlighted her lack of versatility. While it made sense that Sean became immediately attracted to Kailani because she looked pretty in her figure-hugging shirt and short shorts, it didn’t make sense that he continued to yearn for her affections because she acted like a brat, a nicer word that starts with a letter B, toward him, a feeling almost similar to how a stereotypical popular girl treated a stereotypical brainiac. Their so-called romance was one of the most insufferable aspects of the film. Every time Kailani battered her eyelashes, Sean stopped thinking with his brain and proceeded to think with his other head. Meanwhile, my level of exasperation intensified. As a movie designed for kids, I didn’t think it sent a very good message about self-reliance and self-esteem. Would it have been too much of a creative leap for the writers to make Kailani and Sean equally smart so that they were able to bounce ideas off each other and then, when or if it felt right, perhaps explore their underlying romantic feelings? Directed by Brad Peyton, considering that half of “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” involved walking and the characters talking, it was a bore. It might have been better as a short film with nothing but epinephrine-fueled stunts.