The most impressive achievement from Brendan Fraser and Josh Hutcherson in this 3D action -adventure is holding our attention as it feels like we are being chased by a drooling dinosaur and squirted with something really ooky. Fraser plays a scientist and Hutcherson is the nephew who joins him on the title journey, and these two attractive and capable performers keep us interested in the story as the (almost literally) eye-popping special effects.
Unlike the the 1959 movie version , this is not based on the pioneering 1864 science-fiction Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth. Instead, it is based on the idea that the book, also about a professor and his nephew who descend into the inside of the planet, really happened, and these two modern-day characters are following in their footsteps.
Fraser plays Trevor Anderson, a vulcanologist whose program is about to be shut down by the university for failing to produce any results. Distracted and upset, he has forgotten that his nephew with the obligatory attitude problem (Hutcherson as Sean) is about to come for a visit. Sean’s father Max, Trevor’s brother, disappeared years before. Trevor looks at Max’s copy of the Verne book and realizes that Max had figured out a system for predicting volcanic activity. He and Sean take off for Iceland to see if they can find Max’s discovery and perhaps find Max as well. Led by a beautiful guide with the obligatory skepticism problem (Icelandic native Anita Briem), they set off for the volcano and are soon descending into the earth’s core, where they find dangerous plants and animals, terrifying terrain, endearing little glow-birds, and many, many things that jump out at the audience.
Fraser is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors. His range is limitless — in drama (“Crash” and “Twilight of the Golds”), romantic comedy (“Bedazzled”), silly comedy (“Encino Man”) and fantasy-adventure (“The Mummy” series) he is always completely compelling and authentic and perfect pitch in calibrating the size and tempo of his performance to the material. Hutcherson is a promising young performer. Both of them make it all believable and just plain fun, whether they are trying to jump across stones suspended in air or trying to stay on board a roller-coaster-ish runaway mine car. Part thrill ride, part video game, part virtual reality, it is a lively and satisfying update of a good old-fashioned Saturday afternoon serial adventure saga.
Parents should know that this film has a great deal of action-style violence with some intense peril, many jump-out-at-you effects, carnivorous plant, drooling dinosaur with very big teeth, and a reference to a sad death.
Family discussion: Find out what the center of the earth is really like and how 3D effects are created.
If you like this, try: the 1959 movie version starring James Mason and Pat Boone and some of the IMAX 3D films available at museums.