Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: Dwayne Johnson's charm saves this film

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Starring Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman, and Michael Caine. Directed by Brad Peyton. Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn. 94 minutes. Rated PG.

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Its production design inspired by Yes album covers and Candy Land, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island continues the weak Jules Verne-inspired adventures of 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth. Of the original cast and major crew, only Josh Hutcherson, as Sean, a sulky teenaged Vernian, returns. Sean is particularly moody around his stepfather, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), who tries to connect with his charge by showing off his Navy code-breaking skills, deployed when the kid needs to decipher the whereabouts of his explorer granddad (Michael Caine). The old guy is living 100 miles off the coast of Palau, a destination Sean and Hank reach with the help of charter pilot Gabato (Luis Guzman, clowning endlessly) and his daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens, introduced rack first). Lifting plot threads from not only Verne but also Swift and Robert Louis Stevenson, screenwriters Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn still have trouble scripting action sequences or dialogue that rises above "Let's do this" level. The film is endurable owing solely to Johnson, a veteran of bad kids' movies whose sense of when to dial up the charm in such generic, soulless entertainment remains impeccable. The third installment that Journey 2 sets up with hints of a voyage to the moon will have at least one ticket buyer: Newt Gingrich.

 
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