When the going gets tough, the tough get soppy in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, an old-fashioned, gung-ho adventure based loosely on Jules Verne.
Father figures bond with spirited children, grown men cry and screenwriters Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn shamelessly peddle cliches as the narrative glue between impressively staged set pieces.
Directed with vim by Brad Peyton, this follow-up to the 2008 romp Journey To The Center Of The Earth continues the escapades of plucky teenager Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson), who was handed a book about Atlantis at the end of the first film, neatly sowing the seeds of this slicker sequel.
Brendan Fraser is nowhere to be seen or verbally referenced in this second instalment so professional wrestler-turned-action man Dwayne Johnson gamely steps into the fray alongside Hutcherson, plying his usual blend of brawn and self-effacing humour as the plot splices Verne with Robert Louis Stevenson and Jonathan Swift.
Sean has sprouted into a truculent 17-year-old with scant respect for authority; not the local police nor his muscle-bound stepfather, Hank (Johnson).
Following a brush with the law, Sean hides away in his room where he hopes to break a coded distress signal emanating from the South Pacific.
Navy vet Hank breaks the cipher, which confirms the existence of the mysterious island from Verne’s 1874 book.
Seeing the boy energised gives Hank an excellent idea: to accompany Sean to the co-ordinates and pick up the pieces when Vernian fantasy turns out to have no grounding in fact.
“Bond with him on some non-mysterious island like Hawaii,” pleads Sean’s spoilsport mother, Liz (Kristin Davis).
Unperturbed, Hank accompanies Sean to New Guinea, where they charter a helicopter belonging to wise-cracking pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman) and his sassy daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens).
The motley crew fly into the eye of a hurricane and are spewed on to sandy shores where Sean’s gung-ho grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine) guides the newcomers through jungles teeming with danger.
An imminent volcanic eruption threatens to plunge the landmass into the churning waters.
“We need to get off this island or we’ll be 20,000 leagues under the sea!” barks Hank.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island unfolds at a cracking pace, dispensing with characterisation to concentrate on adrenaline-pumping thrills, including an airborne chase on giant bees and an encounter with a fiercely protective mother lizard.
The cast embraces the preposterousness, no one with more winks than Johnson and his “popping pecs”.
Hutcherson and Hudgens conduct a sweet, chaste romance in the lulls between each computer-generated storm, while Caine barely breaks a sweat as the cantankerous old-timer with a twinkle in his eye.
Before the main feature, gun-toting Elmer Fudd duels with his feathered arch-nemesis in the cute animated short Daffy’s Rhapsody, also in eye-popping 3D.
As Elmer might say, it’s gweat!
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland), 94 mins