JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (2008)
Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem, Seth Myers, Jean Michel Paré, Jane Wheeler, Frank Fontaine, Giancarlo Caltabiano, Kaniehtiio Horn and Garth Gilker.
Screenplay by Michael Weiss, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin.
Directed by Eric Brevig.
Distributed by New Line Cinema. 92 minutes. Rated PG.
Brendan Fraser has become the king of the modern B-movie. Like Troy Donahue and Leslie Nielsen before him, you don’t go to a Brendan Fraser film looking for Oscar quality (though he did have a significant role in the Oscar-winning ensemble Crash), you go looking for old-fashioned popcorn thrills.
Fraser has the good looks, the chiseled jaw and the just slightly goofy intensity of 50s matinee idols – with just a hint of new-millennium irony.
Many of his films are revamps of older franchises – some good (The Mummy, Looney Tunes: Back in Action), many not-so-good (George of the Jungle, Dudley Do-Right, The Mummy 2).
Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of the good ones. Not perfect, mind you, but fine mindless old-school cinema – a tribute to old school action films which is both beguilingly contemporary and sweetly square. It is even filmed in 3D!
I did not see the 3D version, so lots of scenes of things being thrown or spit out at the screen were just a little distracting on a 2D screen, though it looked like in 3D the effects would be cool if seen the way it was meant to be. (I just couldn’t bring myself to wear the silly glasses in my living room, and besides I never find that 3D works as well on a television screen as in a theater.)
Journey to the Center of the Earth is both sort of a remake and at the same time a loving tribute to the old film of the same name and the Jules Verne novel it was based upon. It has new characters, a new basic story line but many of the same adventures and locations. In fact, the main characters of the film are rather obsessed to prove that the original book was not fiction as the world has always assumed but was actually based on a real-life occurrence.
Fraser plays Trevor, a scientist whose older brother Max was always determined to find the gateway to Verne’s world at the Earth’s core. When that brother suddenly disappeared about a decade before, Trevor took over the obsession – hoping that if he found the portal, he may find Max.
When his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) – who was too young to remember his father well before the disappearance – is visiting Trevor, Trevor finds some clues to the location in with some of Max’s belongings. Trevor and Sean fly up to Iceland, where they hook up with Hannah (Anita Briem), a beautiful local guide.
This all leads to a series of adventures which include falling amazing lengths, running from dinosaurs, fighting off man-eating plants, clutching to volcano ledges and riding a geyser.
None of this is especially original (in particular, a runaway mine car scene seemed disturbingly similar to a sequence done years ago in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), but mostly Journey recycles its predecessors with style.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is fun, exciting, humorous and interesting – but honestly not overly memorable.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 25, 2008.