It's not that Sean hates his stepdad, Hank.
He's no little kid anymore, though. And he doesn't need some new "rent" hovering over him, trying to get into his business. He's a teenager now and can take care of himself.
Still, it was kind of fun that Hank knew so much about code-breaking from his Navy days. Together they were able to decode that puzzling message from his long-lost grandfather. And they even figured out the clues about the classic novels—Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island—how they all fit together and were really about the same island.
It was really cool that Hank agreed to help him hunt down the map coordinates they found and head off on an adventure to find that secret island. They might even find Sean's grandfather in the process! Maybe he needs to give Hank a bit more credit for trying to be a pretty good dad after all.
How many guys would shell out the kind of bank required to take this trip and hire a helicopter to check out a set of coordinates out in the middle of the Pacific? Not many. That's definitely something in Hank's favor.
The trip even gave Sean the chance to meet Kailani, the helicopter guy's daughter. And boy is she cute! She's not really giving Sean the time of day yet, but, oh well. All in all it's been an incredible couple of days so far. And, well, Sean figures he might actually owe it all to Hank.
Sean would probably almost be ready to, kind of, tell Hank how he felt about him now … if that funnel cloud hadn't disabled their helicopter and they weren't crashing into the ocean. Isn't it funny how life flashes before your eyes and things get so clear just before you're about to croak?
Hank does indeed do his best to make a connection with his standoffish stepson. And as the movie progresses, the two take great strides toward a true father/son bond. Hank talks of his own dad abandoning him when he was 8. And he makes it crystal clear that he isn't going anywhere. As unexpectedly crazy as their adventure becomes, Hank always comes back to trying to protect Sean and make wise choices.
When Hank gives Sean a little advice about the opposite sex, his speech includes some wisdom about being sensitive and curbing a teen's natural instincts—along with just a dash of silliness about "pec popping," which could actually be construed, in a bit of a roundabout way, as a hedge against getting too serious too fast.
Hank's sense of parental commitment even impacts Sean's grandfather, Alexander, whom they do meet in the middle of their journey. Alexander had, in a way, abandoned his family in the pursuit of his research. And eventually the old scientist realizes that it's not too late to reconnect and have the same kind of rewarding relationships that Hank is forming with Sean.
The helicopter owner, Gabato, becomes part of the adventuring crew after the crash. And we learn of his love and devotion for his daughter. He longs to send her to college to give her a better life, and he puts his own life on the line to try to dig up a large chunk of island gold to make that possible. Kailani voices her love for her dad, but tells him, "We'll have all the wealth we need—as long as we're together." On several occasions, Sean makes brave choices to protect Kailani from island threats.
When Gabato first sees the beauty of the island, he coos, "If this is heaven, I'm checking in." When he finds the gold, he exclaims, "My prayers have been answered."
Kailani wears a figure-fitting, midriff-baring and cleavage-revealing outfit of shorts and a tank top. Sean immediately takes notice of her. And, later, they share a brief kiss. Sean's mom sports a little cleavage too.
The island has a special "what is normally small grows large" property about it. And so there are several chase scenes involving giant birds, a king-sized lizard and an enormous electric eel. The result is several slo-mo images of upclose chomping mouths and barely missing snapping beaks. The birds and the lizard are all eventually knocked out cold (with the birds flying into other objects and the lizard getting thumped by rope-suspended logs). An enormous spider and some oversized centipedes are a little frightening-looking, but never a real threat.
During one chase Sean falls and dislocates his ankle. A ravaging funnel cloud snaps the tail of Gabato's helicopter, sending it and everyone aboard plummeting to the ocean below. (The humans all survive. The helicopter, not so much.) When the mysterious island starts sinking, the land shakes, volcanoes erupt and mayhem ensues. Alexander, Gabato and Kailani fall into the churning sea and are moments away from drowning when Hank and Sean come to the rescue.
Crude or Profane Language
Two uses of "heck" and one "crap."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Questioning someone's poor choice, Hank wonders aloud what they were drinking.
Other Negative Elements
We see Sean riding his dirt bike to elude the police after he reportedly broke into a satellite facility. Comic relief guy Gabato delivers several light poop and body odor jokes. Hank tries to scare off a giant lizard with a lit road flare: When the creature bites the top off the flare, Hank looks at it and eeps out, "That's emasculating."
A sequel to 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth, this film takes the same "what if?" premise of the original (What if Jules Verne's books weren't fabrications of the author's imagination, but a record of his scientific discoveries?) and expands on it nicely.
New cast additions add some heft and chuckles. The mysterious island itself has lots of color and pizzazz. And the ride-a-giant-bee-and-pick-up-a-teeny-elephant contrariness of that secret place makes the journey all the more crazy and fun. Plus, the snippets of clues from classic novels make you want to explore your local library shelves.
Then add in the fact that the filmmakers go to great lengths to explore the value of strong family bonds and lasting parental commitment—while the gang is running from the mayhem of giant birds and torrential flood waters—and you've got a light family adventure with a fair amount going for it.
During the press screening I attended, a particularly frenetic—but not too scary—chase sequence had just taken place. We were all sitting back from the edge of our collective seats as a character onscreen asked, "Everyone all right?" And out of the audience, a small, sincere and youthful voice piped up with, "I'm OK."
The adults in the audience chuckled, but that little moment drove the real charm of this pic home to me. This is the kind of movie that will draw in its audience with an exciting ride and a heartwarming message while making sure that even the youngest in the family feels safe and secure. And if you ask me, that's pretty "OK" indeed.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Action/Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Kids
Dwayne Johnson as Hank; Michael Caine as Alexander; Josh Hutcherson as Sean; Vanessa Hudgens as Kailani; Luis Guzmán as Gabato
Brad Peyton (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore)
February 10, 2012
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose