Journey to the Center of the Earth (3 Stars)
Movie Review by Michael Phillips
This reassuringly cheesy and wholly enjoyable new version of the Jules Verne tale features Brendan Fraser and a lot of stuff aimed directly at your head.
Fraser, his nephew (Josh Hutcherson) and another companion (Anita Briem) make their way down an Icelandic volcano, and soon they fall down, down, down, intrepidly braving one new green-screen and soundstage challenge after another.
The new "Journey" moves along, and it has a fairly lighthearted spirit, considering all the flying fishy carnivores and the T. Rex attack.
The 1959 version of "Journey to the Center of the Earth," the one starring James Mason and Pat Boone, wasn't filmed in 3-D; that one had to make do with "the incomparable magic of CinemaScope," as Mason intoned in the '59 film's trailer. The new "Journey" has even less to do with Jules Verne than the Pat Boone one did. It may have more to do with Jules Munshin than Jules Verne.
This one isn't much more than a series of theme-park attractions—the three-track mine-shaft roller-coaster ride being the most blatant, and zippy it is too—dressed up as a film. No pretension or visual ambition here. Eric Brevig, making his feature film directorial debut, comes out of the visual effects and second-unit realms. It's too early to tell if he has real talent or simply a lot of technical facility. I suspect it's both. The new "Journey" moves along (minus credits, it runs less than 90 minutes, bam-bam-bam), and it has a fairly lighthearted spirit, considering all the flying fishy carnivores and the T. rex attack and the overall bam-bam-bam.
Fraser's scientist, Trevor Anderson, travels to Iceland with his surly nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson). There they hook up with the daughter of a devoted "Vernean," played by the Iceland-born actress (a good one) Anita Briem. The three make their way down into a volcano, and soon enough they fall down, down, down, and despite what we know about the center of the Earth—the part about it being 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is awfully hot—there they go, intrepidly braving one new green-screen and soundstage challenge after another, toward the center of the Earth, where the flying fishies and floating boulders and neon bluebirds of happiness roam, along with the dinosaurs.
You don't believe a second of it, but it's easy to enjoy, partly because of the casting of all three leads (and there's hardly anyone else in the thing). Hutcherson, who was in "The Polar Express," "Zathura" and "Firehouse Dog," among others, is turning into a shrewd, effective young actor. Briem plays everything with forthright honesty, and she's charming, without resorting either to ninnydom or Icelanda-vamp. Throughout, Fraser's innate sense of the ridiculous serves him well. You can take him just seriously enough as an action hero to make all his wry, corner-of-the-mouth wisecracks sufferable. No one working in movies today brings more silly brio to green-screen CGI work. No one looks happier punching out a digital man-eating plant in 3-D.
About "Journey to the Center of the Earth"
An exciting adventure based on the classic Jules Verne novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth," Journey to the Center of the Earth stars Brendan Fraser (Crash, The Mummy) as a science professor whose untraditional hypotheses have made him the laughing stock of the academic community.
But on an expedition in Iceland, he and his nephew stumble upon a major discovery that launches them on a thrilling journey deep beneath the Earth's surface, where they travel through never-before-seen worlds and encounter a variety of unusual creatures.
Visionary scientist Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and their beautiful local guide, Hannah (Anita Briem), are unexpectedly trapped in a cave from which their only escape is to go deeper and deeper into the depths of the Earth.
Traveling through never-before-seen worlds, the trio comes face-to-face with surreal and unimaginable creaturesincluding man-eating plants, giant flying piranha, glow birds and terrifying dinosaurs from days past.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is directed by Academy Award-winning visual effects veteran Eric Brevig (Total Recall, Pearl Harbor) from a screenplay by Michael Weiss and Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin. It is the first live-action, narrative motion picture to be shot in digital 3D.
The film is a co-venture between New Line Cinema and Walden Media.
Rated PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments
Starring: Brendan Fraser (Trevor Anderson), Josh Hutcherson (Sean Anderson), Anita Briem (Hannah Asgeirsson), Seth Meyers (professor Alan Kitzens)
Directed by: Eric Brevig; written by Michael Weiss, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, based on the novel by Jules Verne; photographed by Chuck Schuman; edited by Paul Martin Smith, Dirk Westervelt and Steven Rosenblum; visual effects supervised by Christopher Townsend; music by Andrew Lockington; production design by David Sandefur; produced by Charlotte Huggins and Beau Flynn. A New Line Cinema and Walden Media release.
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