Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth, A Review

With the kidlets off for two weeks of summer camp, Captain Sweetie and I have had to fill the sad and lonely hours, taking what consolation we can from the echoing emptiness of Castle Evil, and desperately filling the long days with what amusement we can find.

HA! Fished you in! We are totally treating every night as Date Night! On Wednesday night, we took ourselves out to see Brendan Fraser's movie Journey to the Center of the Earth. Or rather, Brendan Fraser's FIRST movie in what promises to be the Summer of Brendan Fraser. (The Mummy comes out next week.)

The question arises, "Why is this a movie, and not a theme park ride?" Because frankly, if the seats moved in sync with the action on the screen, and fans blew wind through your hair, you'd think you were at Universal Studios theme park.

To start with, the movie was shot to be seen in 3D, pulling out every 3D trick the film makers could think of. Trilobite antennae wave in your face; a yo yo flies out of the screen at you; a Swiss Army knife hovers in the air--none of which have any point other than to highlight the 3D effect. Some theaters do show this in 2D, which must be even more pointless.

The plot, such as it is, is that Brendan Fraser's older brother Max went missing some 10 years ago after a trip to Iceland. The seismic events he was studying seem to have re-aligned precisely as they were 10 years ago, so Brendan Fraser and his brother's sullen pre-teen kid go up to Iceland to follow his trail.

They meet the incredibly competent and cool Hannah, who is a mountain guide and leads them up to one of Max's sensors. A storm blows up suddenly, and the three take refuge in a cave. Of course, lightning strikes the hill and the cave gets closed off. Our Intrepid Three have to find another way out.

They have some adventures, yadda yadda mine cars, yadda yadda rappelling, yadda yadda follow bio-luminescent birds and they find the other world hidden inside the earth. Our Heroes immediately find a tree-house that contains items from the original expedition (which is chronicled in the Jules Verne book) as well as signs that Max had been there. But time is short, as lava is rising and making the place to hot for human survival.

Cue the Act 2 adventures: yadda yadda build a boat; yadda yadda ugly fish with big teeth getting eaten by pleisiosaurs; yadda yadda parasailing; yadda yadda some nonsense about reversed polarity so north is actually south. We get a very silly sequence involving running from a T. Rex-- which, contrary to any survival strategy that actually works, chooses to turn away from the ocean teeming with life, and chase a kid the size of a single tooth across a baking desert. No, I don't know why either.

Our Heroes get separated, get reunited, and finally escape back to the surface by riding a dinosaur skull up a volcanic tube which turns out to be in Italy. Yay! The End.

Really, the whole thing would be totally pathetic, if not for charm of the principal actors. I mean, how can you salvage a movie that gives us Brendan Fraser brushing his teeth and gargling in 3D? At least Brendan Fraser plays a smart but bumbling nice guy; the character of Hannah is actually tough and resourceful and doesn't scream once; the nephew is attractive and believable, with the added bonus of not being Spencer Breslin. As it is, though, you would probably enjoy this movie more if you chug a couple of margaritas before putting on the 3D glasses.

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