Director: Brad Peyton Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens Time Out rating: Japanese title:Center of the Earth 2: Himitsu no Shima
Fans of sci-fi icon and techno-precog Jules Verne probably felt the tiniest twinge of pride when the writer's 1864 novel, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, was pilfered by Hollywood back in 2008. The seminal adventure story was clumsily ransacked for cheap 3D thrills, but at least the author was namechecked enough to put him on youngsters' radars, right? Lovers of old-school lit will experience a similar sensation while enduring this sequel, which takes the first film's hero – suburban rebel Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) – and sets him on a course for Jay-V's tropical wonderland. Having received a cryptic radio message, Sean and his stepdad (Dwayne Johnson) use clues from Treasure Island, Gulliver's Travels and the titular Verne work to break its code. Should just one prepubescent viewer become inspired to dive into those rich tomes out of sheer curiosity, it'd almost justify the hokum that follows.
Once Sean, his guardian, a comic-relief character (Luis Guzmán) and a comely romantic interest (Vanessa Hudgens) end up in a South Seas hideaway inhabited by Gramps Anderson (Michael Caine, gettin' paid), this cash-in resembles a throwback to the first wave of 3D movies: giant jungle creatures lunge and hiss into the screen, projectiles appear to whiz past your face, and the whiff of vintage cheesiness reeks from easy gotcha! moments. Even Bwana Devil showed less crassness in its attempts to wow, however, and the more this cardboard blockbuster piles on the cut-rate F/X, the less anyone – the cast, the filmmaker, you – can muster up the energy to care.