Animated movies have always been a constant source of entertainment for both children and adults alike, going from strength to strength over the past decade or two, in no small part due to Pixar.
Thanks to the incredibly high bar set by them, other studios have raised their game, resulting in such recent gems as Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs.Each provides a really good balance of humour and excitement, for pretty much all ages.
Live action movies aimed at a younger generation, though, have fared less well over the years, proving to be utterly predictable in terms of quality, with adventure stories even more so. Just look at the awful Will Ferrell version of Land Of The Lost, or even the predecessor to Journey 2, the forgettable Journey To The Center Of The Earth, which starred Brendan Fraser back in 2008. In most cases juvenile humour takes centre stage, with a total lack of wit, or anything approaching ingenuity sadly absent.
Thankfully, then, Journey 2 is an absolute blast, proving that one man’s pecs and a knighted, British legend on the back of a giant insect really can be the making of an entire film.
The plot is brutally efficient, as Journey 2 races through its ninety-minute runtime at speed. It starts with a motorbike chase, as the now teenage form of actor Josh Hutcherson appears, returning as Sean Anderson (the only character kept on from the original as far as I can remember), is on the run from the police. Within minutes we’ve established that Sean’s suffering from being a near intolerable teenager, with a step-father, Hank, in the large shape of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who Sean resents for being nice to him (seriously, who wouldn’t want The Rock as a step-dad?). Furthermore, Sean is hell bent on finding his missing grandfather.
Soon a bonding adventure is under way between the estranged pair, after a quick bit of map puzzling and riddle solving, as they seek out the Mysterious Island, picking up a Looney Tunes pilot (Luis Guzman) and his teen hormone igniting daughter (Vanessa Hudgens, who has little to do aside from delivering some fairly clunky dialogue and providing a little love interest). So far, so predictable, and in truth, the film continues along a well worn route.
But sometimes a film makes no bones about its lack of originality, it just chooses to make the journey itself as entertaining and slick as possible. In this case, it also takes great pleasure in referencing its Jules Verne origins, as well as Indiana Jones, along the way.
Take Guzman’s character, Gabby, who fills the role of comedic idiot (in this case bordering on total mental deficiency). He’s there to nothing more than make noises and panic, to amuse younger children. At first, the overacting seemed too out of control, yet as the film progresses and his adoration of Hank becomes slightly more homo-erotic, I found myself chuckling along. Inno small part, I’m sure, because I’d almost certainly act the same way in the presence of The Rock.
And it’s the humour in Journey 2 that’s really the making of the film, with the more outlandish elements just adding to its enjoyment.
I found myself laughing throughout the entire movie, especially during the surreal sight of Sir Michael Caine atop a giant bee, or consistently facing off against the might of Johnson. In fact, despite Caine’s clear desire to pay for an extension to his house, he does seem to have fun with the role, and more surprisingly has a proper part for the duration of the movie. I was perfectly prepared for a brief cameo at the end.
Still, if there’s one reason to watch this film, it’s the big man himself.
Dwayne Johnson has always kept one hand in the kids movie jar, regardless of how many times it’s been shut on his fingers, yet I admire his tenacity and ability to walk from the extreme gory violence of Doom, straight into the super sugary world of Hannah Montana. Don’t get me wrong, I was the first person to rejoice when his involvement in both Faster and Fast Five were announced, and if I had my way he’d be confined only to action movies.
Yet maybe that’s a little selfish – surely every generation deserves some of The Rock in their lives? I’m almost certain that there’s a mathematical equation for how much better he makes a movie, just by appearing, he even proved a bright spot in the otherwise wonky You Again.
The man just radiates charisma with an uncanny ease and charm, which makes him a much more suitable fit for both adult action movies and children’s entertainment, unlike some of his predecessors. What’s more, his comic timing simply shines in Journey 2. For anyone, like me, who mostly wants to see the film off as a Johnson completist, there are some truly great moments.
Have you ever wondered what paternal advice from The Rock about relationships would be like? Wonder no more, as the hysterical sight of cherry bouncing, pec flexes in full 3D reveal all. Ever wanted to see the big man play a ukulele while singing? Done. In fact stay for the end credits and you’ll get even more of him singing, all to the backing of a big band. It’s a sound so glorious I may have to take a pregnancy test in the morning.
Even the 3D was an unexpected delight, providing plenty of theme park style moments to the effects, though scenes might prove a little too intense for the very young, as giant eels, spiders and lizards all make an appearance.
Despite the odd scare though kids should love it, with adults having plenty of surreal moments of inspired lunacy to keep them amused. And Journey 2? Against what you might be expecting, it turns out to be a visually rich and thoroughly entertaining ride.