Journey to the Centre of the Earth was a fun, throwaway piece of cinema that exploited its 3D gimmick (back in the days when there was no extra charge) and was only interested in keeping you entertained whilst upping the spectacle. For me, it succeeded, but it seemed to disappear from the memories of the rest of the world. So the appearance of a sequel so many years later was, to say the least, unexpected, but certainly welcome.
Only Josh Hutcherson remains from the original film, but fortunately he’s one of the few child actors that is successfully keeping his career alive whilst transitioning into an adult, balancing the fine line between stroppy and likeable with a consummate ease that’s made him one to keep an eye on.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for High School Musical graduate Vanessa Hudgens, who simply redefines awful. Her father, played by the usually reliable Luiz Guzman, is no better.
As much as it pains me to say it, I’ve always found Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as The Rock) a charismatic screen presence. Here he takes over from Brendan Fraser and gives a suitably charming, self-effacing performance, particularly in his banter with Michael Caine. Yes, I did say Michael Caine, who is, obviously, phoning it in.
But it’s all about the spectacle, and this film delivers. Giant bees and butterflies, beautiful foliage, tiny elephants… Okay, a lot of the CGI is sub-par, but it’s all played with such a pleasant sense of adventurous whimsy, I’ll forgive it a lot. There’s plenty to enjoy here. You just have to allow yourself to do so.