There are films that warrant serious analysis and dissection. Journey 2 is not one of those films. It’s gleefully ridiculous, frequently leaves things unexplained and cheerfully marches on unashamed of its plot contrivances.
But what makes it more than just a crass ham-fisted sequel to the Brendan Fraser original is its self-awareness, pace and steadfast resolve not to take itself too seriously, which made it hard not to raise a smile.
It finds sulky teenager Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) embark on a quest to find his grandfather after he receives a code on a ham radio. Accompanied by his muscle-bound stepdad (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), they charter a derelict helicopter from Gabato (Luiz Guzman) and his daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), crash land on the Mysterious Island and (of course) team up with Sean’s granddad (Michael Caine). Here they find that the island is populated by miniature and gigantic versions of the world’s fauna but that they’ll have to make their escape quickly as the island is due to sink in a few days.
Johnson’s character is a kind of muscular polymath, blessed with the miraculous ability to have the solution to whatever problem the team comes up against. It’s hard to think of a series of improbable events which require the talents of an ex-naval , code-breaking champion who so happens to be an authority on soil liquefaction but Journey 2 throws that in with aplomb.
The Rock has for a long time been a charismatic presence who improves almost every film he’s in – Fast And Furious 5 would have been infinitely poorer were it not for him; Tooth Fairy was far better than it really should have been. Journey 2 is no exception, and he has surprising chemistry with Michael Caine, a truculent antagonism which is actually quite funny and a hilarious scene in which he imparts advice about women to Sean while popping berries off his bulging pectorals.
In fact The Rock has such charisma that his co-stars are drawn into a sort of gravitational orbit. Josh Hutcherson, who would probably be fine in any other movie, fades into the background like a young Shia LaBeouf; Vanessa Hudgens’s undeniable beauty is dwarfed by his pearly whites and even Michael Caine is upstaged by his callipygian stature.
The brisk pace and light tone helps breeze through a plot which is superfluous and merely a device to get to the next CGI-fuelled set-piece. Inevitable subplots which involve Gabato searching for money to fund Kailani’s higher education and a will they/ won’t they romantic arc are undoubtedly the film’s low points but are hardly a major consideration.
While Journey 2 isn’t going to win any awards for scriptwriting, the colourful characters combined with Dwayne Johnson’s unbridled charisma is enough to keep it fresh and it does a good job at breezing past any significant plot holes. It’s a mild but ultimately forgettable family movie which is fun while it lasts. Can we have a better comedy vehicle for The Rock please?