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Originally published Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 12:04 AM

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Movie review

'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island': Not quite paradise

A movie review of "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," the mediocre follow-up to 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth." It finds returning star Josh Hutcherson playing a kid searching for his missing grandfather (Michael Caine) and in the brawny company of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,' with Josh Hutcherson, Michael Caine, Dwayne Johnson, Luis Guzmán, Vanessa Hudgens. Directed by Brad Peyton, from a screenplay by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, based on a story by Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn and Richard Outen, and a novel by Jules Verne. 94 minutes. Rated PG for mild peril. Several theaters.

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Please tell me I didn't really see what I think I just saw: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson sitting on a log, playing ukulele and singing "What a Wonderful World" to Michael Caine.

That's right. Michael Caine. Alfie. Alfred. Giving an unnervingly strenuous performance at age 78 in a dull, 3-D nonevent called "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island."

(By the way: That part about Johnson, the uke and "What a Wonderful World"? He's no Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Or Louis Armstrong, for that matter.)

A sequel to the mediocre, enchantment-free 2008 "Journey to the Center of the Earth" — which was a 3-D update of a far classier, spellbinding 1959 film adventure (of the same title) based on Jules Verne's science-fiction novel — "Journey 2" brings back Josh Hutcherson in another Verne-related tale.

Once again, Hutcherson plays troubled kid Sean, now living with his mom (Kristin Davis, on-screen for two minutes) and stepfather Hank (Johnson), a former naval intelligence specialist. Sean rebuffs Hank's attempts to bond until the latter agrees to accompany him on a search for Sean's missing grandfather, Alexander (Caine).

That search leads to the titular, tropical paradise of Verne's novel "The Mysterious Island." Well, not quite a paradise given its Vernian dangers: giant creatures, a belching volcano, that sinking feeling when an island is rapidly being covered by the ocean.

Superficially, "Journey 2" has that one-fantastic-thing-after-another action structure familiar to such Verne adaptations as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Its 3-D effects are employed to interesting if not quite captivating use, particularly a scene in which beautiful but enormous tropical birds are chasing humans riding on the backs of huge bees.

But it's the moments between such sequences that are wanting. Luis Guzmán and Vanessa Hudgens co-star as a father-and-daughter team along for the trip, contributing to an overall decent cast trapped by a boring script with a greater emphasis on gimmicks (bird-poop jokes) than wonder or suspense.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com

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