Teenager Sean Anderson (Hutcherson) heads off on another quest, this time to a magical island with a gold volcano and tiny elephants. And his buff stepdad (Johnson) and kooky grandad (Caine) are along for the ride.
At one point in awful ’70s disaster movie The Swarm, reacting to the news that buzzy insects have managed to down two military helicopters, Michael Caine turns solemnly towards a co-star and utters the immortal words, “I never dreamed it would turn out to be the bees. They’ve always been our friend.” It seemed certain that this would be the weirdest bee-based scene Caine would ever have to perform. But now along comes Journey 2, boasting an aerial chase in which the knighted actor – yes – rides a giant version of his ancient foes.
Happily, unlike The Swarm, this affable adventure is in on the joke. Directed by Brad Peyton, the man behind Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore, and so clearly Hollywood’s go-to guy for very silly sequels, Journey 2 gleefully piles on the implausibilities. So we get a comedy double-act between Caine and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson — as effectively bizarre a match-up as Arnie and DeVito — which sees them antagonistically call each other “Mary Poppins” and “Sasquatch”. A campfire sing-along recapping the movie’s plot to the tune of What A Wonderful World. And at least three moments in which Johnson reveals himself to be an expert in the exact puzzle they’re facing. Including, rather brilliantly, soil liquefaction.
It’s no-one’s definition of great cinema, but when a scene that starts with Johnson offering courting advice to his stepson degenerates into everyone bouncing berries off his chest, it’s tough not to smile. Inevitably, the on-message plot stuff is less fun. The one holdover from Journey To The Center Of The Earth — Brendan Fraser’s character barely gets a mention, but it’s implied he’s bailed on his nephew — Josh Hutcherson remains a fairly unengaging screen presence, though he’s not helped by having to constantly sulk at Johnson, one of the world’s most engaging stars. And the various character arcs (will the heroic boy and hot girl hook up? Will doofus helicopter pilot Luis Guzmán find some way to pay his daughter’s college fees?) won’t keep anyone on the edge of their seat.
So don’t expect Avatar (though there are giant lizards), rather a mild adventure that makes no sense at all but is eccentric enough to win through on charm. Not every big-budget fantasy, after all, sees the hero ball his fist and threaten to unleash the “thunder-cookie”…
Massively throwaway, but funnier and more likable than the first entry. Mainly thats due to an A-list pairing thats as inspired as it is demented.