Rated PG. Click here to view the trailer
Journey to the Center of the Earth is a very, very mediocre throw-away excuse for a movie that is pulled back from the brink by Brendon Frasier and his inexplicable yet undeniable charm.
Hopefully you know the basic plot of Jules Verne‘s 1864 classic sci-fi novel of the same title. In this film, Frasier plays a modern-day geology professor who takes spelunking to new heights (depths) as he, his nephew treat Verne’s book not as science fiction, but as factual diary and field manual and try to retrace his steps.
Frasier the only reason why this movie doesn’t suck. I don’t know what it is about him, but he’s a likeable guy who can sell the ridiculous line. When he tries to lecture his students on the finer points of geological theory, you’re more likely to grin than you are to grimace. Every time he sets his jaw and tries to look intense, all I can think of is Encino Man. I think Frasier knows this and doesn’t care. That’s why it works.
The other actors are wholly forgettable. Josh Hutcherson plays the nephew whose iPhone is eaten by a giant sea monster (likely voiding the warranty) and Anita Briem is pretty bland as Hot Icelandic Mountain Guide (seriously, they call her that). An interesting bit of trivia via IMDB: Briem’s special interests include travelling, encountering different cultures, reading and spending time with family. What a dynamic woman!
Those who have read the book can be safe in assuming the movie will end pretty much the same way, but the movie telegraphs this even more by having Frasier’s explain the entire plot of the book half way in. There’s tipping your hand and then there’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Since there can be no suspense as a result of the plot, the movie tries (if you can call it trying) to create tension by throwing in dinosaurs, glow-in-the-dark birds and a hanful of perilous falls. In one scene, our heroes fall for a good minute (“We’re still falling!”) , yet survive the fall without a scratch.
But hey, it’s a PG-rated action movie that’s being shown in 3D (though I only saw it in 2D) – what do you expect? I doubt Verne would be impressed, but a nine-year-old me probably would be.