Wednesday, February 15, 2012

a big smile can go a long way

The new, ridiculous, preposterous, but still entertaining Journey 2 the Mysterious Island takes its characters on an adventure where volcanoes spew pure gold and the lost city of Atlantis is once again discovered, but its greatest special effect is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's 1000 watt smile. As absurd as things get on that island, Johnson pulls out his Hollywood grin and the audience just relaxes and surrenders to the silliness. Why not?

Matt Sayles, AP Photo

Journey 2 is a pseudo-sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, which starred Brendan Fraser, whose character has disappeared from this story and doesn't even get a mention. Johnson takes over the Fraser role here, a hunky but also clever guy who is ripe for an adventure. Johnson has eased into the same sort of family/adventure movies favored by Fraser and looks to continue making many more in the future.

Josh Hutcherson, who played a slightly callow youth and the nephew of Fraser in the first film, is in Journey 2 a callous youth. For the majority of the movie his character is more than a little annoying. While the film purports to be about the bonding of Hutcherson with his new stepfather (Johnson) it's really a series of silly and sometimes scary set pieces designed to amuse the kiddies. Tiny elephants, giant bees and other wonders are glossed over rather quickly as the cast races to get off the magical island, almost as soon as they get there. More nonsense incorporating Captain Nemo, Atlantis, and the kitchen sink are thrown in. The whole effect is similar to games my brother and I used to play in the back yard with our friends, where we would mash up favorite shows like Star Trek and The Avengers and make up adventures and perils as we went along.

L-R: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Luiz Guzman, Vanessa Hudgens, and Josh Hutcherson in Atlantis

Michael Caine enjoys himself to the hilt playing the wacky scientist grandfather of Hutcherson. Luis Guzman is a comic relief pilot who happens to have a gorgeous daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) who hates Hutcherson at first sight. We know it will all work out and kids in the theater loved it, even applauding at times. I suspect (fear) that this will be on heavy rotation when it comes to television in our house. But who am I to quibble? It's hard to resist Johnson's good-natured grin.

Note: Right before the movie begins audiences are treated to a new Looney Tunes animated short, Daffy’s Rhapsody, featuring Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd. Not only is it great to see such classic Warner Brothers characters in a new cartoon, but Daffy is magically voiced by the late Mel Blanc. Animators discovered a children’s record album from the 1950s which included a song by Daffy voiced by Blanc and were able to use that to create the soundtrack for this cartoon. I hope they continue to search their vaults for similar gems.

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