If you're concerned that you missed 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth and you're not sure if you're going to be able to jump into this fast-moving adventure whole heartedly, you needn't be worried. The only person who saw it was Josh Hutcherson, who plays the feisty daredevil Seth in both films, and even he doesn't seem to remember it. In fact, the whole movie seems to exist in a bubble where people can fly on bees, but no one's allowed to say "Hey, does this seem weird to anyone else?"
Without wasting too much time on exposition, the movie goes from zero to 60 zooming through the tiny details that Josh, as a known Vernian, believes the novels of Jules Verne to be fact. He clandestinely obtains some Morse code presumably sent by his long-lost grandfather which his stepfather Hank (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) decodes in record time. It says that The Mysterious Island is real and that they totally have to go there. With little effort they do, and it's filled with the gorgeous and peculiar landscape Verne described, where little things are big and vice versa (which makes for adorable elephants but scary lizards). Of course this is old hat for Josh, who has been through this once before, but apparently no one in the movie thinks that figures in here (not even one "Here we go again." Not one). Unfortunately their amazing vacation is cut short and they have to escape the island sooner than intended, using more iconic literary machinery that is actually real.
The movie feels vaguely like serial adventures of old, where there's plenty of action that kids were declaring "awesome" as the credits rolled, and it has moments of beauty that make the 3D ticket price almost worth it. But it's completely lacking anything that grounds the picture and makes it even the slightest bit realistic or tense for anyone else. In fact, the characters unblinking acceptance of every circumstance makes the film eventually feel pointless, because every obstacle is treated as completely insignificant. Regardless of whether it's a hurricane, dislocated ankle, missing person, or cranky grandfather--none of it raises any kind of anxiety in the cast, much less the audience. Roadblocks are followed with an immediate calm plan that is executed precisely, with no screw ups or surprises. If only our government could operate so efficiently. This an ideal adventure picture to show your child if they found Tangled to be too nail-bitingly intense.
Lucky for anyone dragged to see this, there's always The Rock to help ease your pain. His scowl packs the same wattage as his smile, and he gets to be in his full kid-friendly movie glory here. His moments of sheer insanity are the only thing that feels genuine about the entire film. Whether he's popping his pecs while Luis Guzman tosses berries at them, or playing a ukelele and doing his own Weird-Al-ing of "What a Wonderful World," he helps make the movie more entertaining and just a hare funnier, raising it to a 1.37 out of ten on the Hilarity Scale. The optimist within says they must be saving all their endearing character banter and swashbuckling for the next film. Because the pessimist within knows there will be another.