By: Addison Wylie
Dwayne Johnson continues his streak of children’s movies with his starring role in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a sequel to the surprise hit starring Brendan Fraser.
It’s still slightly puzzling to see Johnson, a hulking ex-wrestler, in these simpler vehicles aimed towards young ones. Perhaps, he’s making these for a niece or a nephew. Maybe, it’s an easy paycheque.
Out of the children’s movies I’ve seen starring the former “Rock”, Journey 2 is probably his least memorable. That’s not to say the film is bad. It’s here though where audiences will start to see the actor realize just how easy these types of roles are.
The best way to describe Johnson’s autopiloted performance as Hank is to picture a worker – who’s been working at the same factory for years – punch in on an ordinary Wednesday. Nothing noteworthy happens on this hump day. It’s just “a day at the grind”. It’s extremely routine.
At the end of the day, he punches out, goes home, eats a bowl of left-over spaghetti, and goes to bed. Johnson – as well as Journey 2’s production – is about as exciting as that.
I wish I could be reporting that the film is a thrilling ride for both adults and kids. It certainly has a premise for one.
Hank and his stepson Sean, played by Josh Hutcherson, have discovered a mystery map through literary legends. The clues lead to the whereabouts of Sean’s grandfather Alexander (played by Michael Caine). Hank isn’t letting Sean travel alone and decides to partake in the adventure.
Along the way, the two run into an eccentric helicopter pilot (played by Luis Guzmán who appears to have been hired to shriek “funny” noises and make “funny” faces) and his daughter Kailani (played by Vanessa Hudgens, who never breaks a sweat or makes an effort to let loose).
As its been advertised, the four make it to the mysterious island, a place full of fantastical animals and gorgeous landscapes. Despite the dangers, the film convinces us to want to visit this exotic destination.
The film may have extraordinary creatures and settings, but the sequel they’re trapped in isn’t memorable. There’s a giant and menacing lizard, huge bees, and a vicious electric eel. These all may sound exciting, but the action that they take part in is so rapidly paced, it barely has any time to leave an imprint on moviegoers.
What we do remember, however, is the cheesiness of the back-and-forth banter between Johnson and Michael Caine. The jokes are emphasized in both the writing and in the actors’ delivery, and the jabs aren’t even that critical or amusing.
Again, I know this is a kids movie and I shouldn’t expect too much harshness, but I expect Hank to have better insults than calling Alexander a “grandmother”.
Michael Caine, however, is executing that type of acting he does so well. He realizes he has a familiar face and that people will see him as that kind, embraceable grandfather figure.
That said, instead of that familiarity driving the character, Caine puts forth and sticks to his intentions to deliver a fun performance. Watching Caine trek through this adventure with a huge smile on his face is uplifting. His dedication to a character, even if it’s in a mundane children’s film, makes him an admirable actor. An admirable actor in a dull movie, but an admirable actor nonetheless.
But, enough of how an adult will perceive Brad Peyton’s adventurous film. How will kids like it?
It will certainly please undemanding youngsters, I have no doubt. It’s a harmless and breezy yarn with a colourful landscape and imaginative characters.
So, parents. As you sit down to watch Journey 2: The Mysterious Island with your son or daughter, try to suck it up and stick through it. It’s not going to irritate you, it may weird you out (a scene where Hank is bouncing nuts off his dancing pecs is plain strange), but your child will appreciate you hanging tight and will love pointing out the film’s creative heights.
Note to parental movie aficionados: You will not be getting a Ray Harryhausen homage with Journey 2. Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams this is not. No matter how many chances it has to pay tribute to one of cinema’s greatest visual artists, it passes on these opportunities. Shucks.