BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While investigating a geological anomaly related to his brother’s disappearance, Trevor Anderson, his nephew and their guide become trapped in a cave and find the center of the Earth.
PROS: Kids will like it.
CONS: Parents probably won’t; too many unbelievable occurrences; poor digital effects; lackluster acting.
BOTTOM LINE: Will appeals to kids more than adults.
Thanks to the marketing genius of NetFlix, I’m watching films that I would likely have not seen otherwise, like the 2008 adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth. The theatrical release featured 3D goodness. I spared myself that nonsense on the home version but wondered afterward if that might have made for a better movie-going experience. Actually, there was nowhere to go but up.
The film follows Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), a geologist still lamenting his lost brother, Max, who disappeared ten years ago on a geological expedition. A confluence of events leads Trevor, with his nephew (Josh Hutcherson) in tow, to Iceland where a guide (Anita Briem) leads them to the location of new seismic activity. After becoming trapped in a cave, the trio head down deeper into the Earth looking for a way out.
As befitting to title, traveling deeper into the Earth consists largely of falling down a vertical tunnel — the first major lapse in a continual stream of disbelief. Suffice it to say that our way-too-lucky heroes remain unharmed. It is a family film, after all. There’s even a roller coaster mining cart ride that rivals Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the “Oh, come on!” category. And lets not even mention the sequence of super-coincidental events that, for some unexplained reason, allow Trevor to follow his brother’s footsteps.
The film respects the Jules Verne book, if not the actual story, by often referencing and showing Verne’s book, which Trevor uses as a guide since it is learned that it is indeed based on fact. This leads to lots of special effects that were too-obviously CG. Anyone who has seen Jurassic Park will roll their eyes at Journey‘s dinosaur and wonder whether Hollywood has regressed these past 15 years. The scenes that were meant to “wow” in 3D were only very brief distractions in not-3D. More disappointing was the performance of Fraser, who looked like he was still asleep in his trailer. The dialogue was ok, though most of the humor falls flat for anyone over age 12.
Don’t get me wrong, my kid loved it and most kids will, but better are the kid films that appeal to adults as well.