New Line’s Journey to the Center of the Earth is a flimsy plot – loosely based on Jules Verne’s novel of the same name – used to set up a string of wild [and at times gross and/or grotesque] 3D effects. The good news is that the combination of cast and CG effects make it – literally – a great ride.
Trevor Anderson’s [Brendan Fraser] work on seismic effects is threatened by a lack of results. When his nephew, Sean [Josh Hutcherson], comes to visit, a comment on his dad’s favorite book [guess…] leads to the discovery that seismic shifts lead to an unexpected location – and the figures match, precisely, those from the time when Trevor’s brother, Max, disappeared. The figures lead Trevor and Sean to Iceland and a mountain guide, Hannah Ásgeirsson [Anita Briem], whose father was a colleague of Max’s. Before you know it, the three are at the center of the planet!
Outside of encounters with luminescent birds, extinct dinosaurs, piranha the size of Great Danes and other odd occurrences, that’s all there is to it. What makes it work is that Fraser, Hutcherson and Briem give themselves over to the thrill ride completely. The screenplay, by Michael Weiss, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, gives our heroes plenty of exciting situations to deal with – and a number of good [if not terribly memorable] lines to keep us the edges of our seats. Eric Brevig’s direction is frenetic enough that, even with a few pauses for breath and a bit of emotional interplay, the film zips by in a compact ninety-three minutes – without feeling too short. The 3D is generally very good, though there are a few places where it is outstanding. My personal favorite [which is to say, the one that made me jump the highest] involves a piranha – and I guarantee you won’t see it coming [sorry…].
It’s a pity that Journey to the Center of the Earth opens the same weekend as Hellboy II and the new Eddie Murphy movie [which is likely not half as much fun]. It would be a shame to see it get lost in the box office shuffle. It’s far too much pure fun for that.
Final Grade: B