CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Blu-ray Review: Charmless ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ Goes Nowhere
CHICAGO – “Who’s up for an adventure?” ask the characters in Brad Peyton’s ungainly titled “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.” This question is repeatedly asked, but alas, the adventure never arrives, unless you count an interminable series of derivative set-pieces lacking any shred of charm or imagination. The intelligence and perceptiveness of a child’s mind is rarely ever respected by Hollywood these days, and “Journey 2” takes the idiocy to a whole new level.
The film is a sequel to 2008’s instantly forgettable “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” which starred Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson. Fraser is replaced in the sequel by wrestler-turned-babysitter Dwayne Johnson, whose bulging eyes and raised eyebrow wore out their welcome about nine pictures ago. Hutcherson, sadly, is still on board, despite the fact that he has already proven his acting chops in spades and is far more deserving of better material. Even in a silly picture like “Bridge to Terabithia,” Hutcherson brought an emotional honesty that elevated the material.
Blu-ray Rating: 1.0/5.0
Yet in his last few pictures (including “The Hunger Games”), Hutcherson’s performances have become naggingly bland, and that may very well be because he is ready to tackle roles better suited for his age. In “Journey,” he plays Sean, a self-centered little s—t who vandalizes property without any remorse, leaves school to search for his grandfather on an imaginary island, and demands that a amateur pilot (Luis Guzmán) fly him into the eye of a hurricane because—well, a science fiction book told him to. The book, of course, was written by Jules Verne, which is referenced by the script as if writers Brian and Mark Gunn had merely skimmed through the SparkNotes. Characters rattle through Vernian trivia like the long-winded symbologists in “The Da Vinci Code,” while the filmmakers ignore the enchantment of Verne’s work in favor of shrill slapstick shenanigans. There’s a bumblebee ride recycled directly from “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and transplanted into the Ewok forest from “Return of the Jedi.” Even the songs are uninspired—in the film’s single musical sequence, Sean’s stepdad, Hank (Johnson), sings Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” while switching out some of the lyrics. When Hank attempts to teach Sean the “pec pop of love,” I could instantly picture Peyton and the Gunns throwing up their hands and admitting, “I got nothing.”
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5, 2012.
Photo credit: Warner Home Video
Also along for the ride is the pilot’s smokin’ hot daughter, Kailani (a sour Vanessa Hudgens). She’s a bitchy ice queen until the last minutes of the film, but since Sean is an insufferable brat, they’re naturally a match made in heaven. Guzmán’s hammy mugging and ever-gaping mouth is amusing at first but the Galifianakis-lite shtick quickly wears thin. And then there’s the sad case of two-time Oscar-winner Michael Caine as Sean’s grandfather. Whenever Caine makes a grand entrance, he asks his co-stars for their applause. They naturally oblige, while gushing, “I can’t believe you’re here!” Me neither.
“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, French and Spanish audio tracks, and includes Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet versions of the film. An interactive map tediously transports viewers through a series of mini-featurettes, the best of which focuses on the nifty, underutilized art direction in Caine’s hut. The scant extras also include a gag reel and five minutes of equally awful deleted scenes. When his parents argue that he isn’t old enough to embark on another adventure, Sean defiantly whines, “When I was 13, I went to the center of the earth, and I was FINE!” There’s also an unintentionally hilarious explanation of how the animals survive the sinking of the island that was obviously designed to soothe the minds of traumatized youngsters. Yet the biggest low point on this disc is a failed sketch where Hank frets about his step-son’s obsession with Jules Verne. Hank isn’t worried because the boy is antisocial, irresponsible, possibly delusional, and undeniably destined for a life behind bars. He’s worried because Sean is obsessed with “a DUDE!” I wonder what Hutcherson’s moms from “The Kids Are All Right” would think about this instance of homophobic panic that nearly made it into this kiddie time-waster.