Special effects have come a long way since Jurassic Park, but you wouldn’t know it from Journey to the Center of the Earth, whose rampaging T-Rex looks only slightly more believable than the pitiful CG creatures found in your average Sci-Fi Channel movie. The lion’s share of FX effort clearly didn’t go into the fantastic landscapes and creatures of the subterranean “world within the world” discovered by scientist Trevor (Brendan Fraser), his teenage nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) and their mountain guide Hannah (Anita Briem), but rather into the 3D effects that are this family adventure’s primary selling point. What this means is that Eric Brevig’s film boasts cruddy computer-generated imagery that effectively leaps off the screen, albeit in the same old silly ways that audiences have come to expect from this supposedly futuristic technology. Spitting water, from-the-hip phallic tape measures and fanged piranhas are a few of the many sights that cheesily protrude from the visual plane, though their lack of subtlety is nothing compared to the performance turned in by Fraser, whose big grin, rolling eyes and general corniness never make it past one dimension. Trevor and Sean are in Iceland to investigate weird seismic readings related to the disappearance of Trevor’s bro and Sean’s dad, Max, who was a “Vernanite” convinced that Jules Verne’s writing was nonfiction. After being trapped in a cave and falling down a thousand-mile cavern, the trio learns that Max was correct and, in fact, died in this mysterious place, though not, conveniently, before leaving behind instructions on how to reach the surface. Crude storybook scripting ultimately overwhelms Journey to the Center of the Earth, its narrative’s breakneck tempo intended to obscure the brainlessness of every other decision made by its heroes, whose tepid quips desperately call for “wacka wacka wacka” accompaniment. Aiming for rollercoaster-ride excitement, the film instead amounts to be merely a drab gimmick, and a sloppily constructed one at that, full of continuity errors epitomized by sweat-free faces in blistering 110-degree heat.
- Eric Brevig
- Michael Weiss, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
- Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem, Seth Meyers, Jean Michel Paré
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