Journey 2: The Mysterious Island review

A comic turn from The Rock lifts the surprisingly fun Journey 2: The Mysterious Island above the mire of Spy Kids and Chipmunk sequels
Remember when you used to think lie-ins were boring? When you used to knock for your friends at weekends and get genuinely excited about Christmas? When you could stay skinny eating meals composed entirely of trans-fats and laugh yourself silly at films starring ex-wrestlers? Childhood, eh? A golden time.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island will, if you squint a bit, let you reclaim ninety minutes or so of that uncomplicated, childhood, “log flumes are the greatest” kind of enjoyment. Granted, you will have to silence the nagging adult voices in your head complaining about plot logic and disappointing female characters with hot pants instead of personalities, but if you can master that, then there is fun to be had with this film.

Roughly 90% of the fun to be had with Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (try not to flinch inwardly at the text speak title) is to do with one man: Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a The Rock. He sings, he cracks jokes, he rides giant bees and punches lizards in the face. He’s approximately the size of a phone box and the shape of Buzz Lightyear. The Rock - and I mean this without irony or agenda - is really great in this movie.
Which is more than can be said for Michael Caine, who sleepwalks through his novelty wacky granddad role barely stopping to pick up his no-doubt-sizeable cheque. Young Josh Hutcherson too, fails to set the world, or indeed his face alight as sulky charisma-vacuum teen Sean, and we’ve already touched upon the deficit that is Hot Pants Girl (Vanessa Hudgens, in some hot pants), but The Rock. My word.
Johnson plays ex-Navy man Hank, recent step-father to sulky Sean, who - if you remember from the first film - is a Jules Verne nut. Being a young person in a modern family movie, Sean has an Issue™ to resolve (he’s Abandonment Spice), so it’s up to he and The Rock to do some hugging and learning alongside the adventure.
Not that Journey 2 is a film to hang about worrying about feelings and whatnot. Things kick off sharpish with a flying motorbike stunt, before a nonsensical plot about secret codes, satellite signals, and explorer grandfathers is quickly established. The idea that the works of R.L Stephenson, Jonathan Swift and Jules Verne make up a kind of composite Lonely Planet guide to a real mysterious island is confidently announced, then it’s off in search of the island we go before anyone has the time to say “I’m sorry, what now?”
Before we reach the Island, Sean and Hank team up with Palauan pilot Gabato (Luiz Guzman) and daughter Kailani (Hot Pants Girl). Cue a treacherous flight into the eye of a storm (making full use of the film’s actually not bad 3D to spin bits of helicopter into the audiences’ faces) and the quartet arrive on the island.
It’s there where the visual effects skills of silly sequel specialist Brad Peyton (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) come into their own. Vista after vista appears of forest, mountain and lost cities of Atlantis (it borrows from a few different places, this film) appear, making quite the feast for the eyes. Giant centipedes crawl stereoscopically out of the screen, and elephants the size of Yorkshire terriers scamper all over the shop. It’s like holidaying in Hunter S. Thompson’s prefrontal cortex, and frankly, what’s not to enjoy about that?
The script doesn’t exactly sparkle, but there are more than a few decent gags, all of which go to either Johnson, Guzman or Caine. For the first forty five minutes characters keep dramatically asking each other if they were ready for an adventure and saying “mysterious island”, making it feel like watching the world’s longest trailer.
Not for long though. This isn't some wimpy Attenborough nature doc remember, this is a big silly adventure film and the Island is mutating! Or going to the moon! Or - and this one is actually what happens in the film - sinking! Some peril is invented meaning the Island is on its way to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean necessitating a spot of grave robbing and submarine TWOCing so an escape can be made.
To explain that last plot point every so often someone says something like “biogeography” or “soil liquefaction” to convince us there’s some kind of logic steering the ship, but they really needn’t have bothered. We don’t need logic or reason here, not when we’ve got The Rock singing It’s a Wonderful World to ukulele accompaniment and giving pec pop pep talks (if I can’t convince you to buy a ticket, at the very least seek that bit out on YouTube).
As a disengage-your-brain, light-as-popcorn fairground ride family romp, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island has much going for it. It could have done without some of the sap (why can’t untroubled kids ever get into fun scrapes?), but there’s enough adventure and excitement to drown that out if it turns you off.
I can’t imagine kids not having fun in the audience for this one, and what with The Rock punching lizards, popping pecs, flying on giant bees and having cat fights with Michael Caine, there’s every chance that you might too.