The breezy and fun Journey to the Centre of the Earth helped reintroduce audiences to the latest incarnation of 3D back in the pre-Avatar days of 2008, and its healthy $240 million box office haul has paved the way for this second Jules Verne-inspired family adventure.
Josh Hutcherson's Sean Anderson is the sole franchise holdover, playing the science-loving teen who's now living with his mother and her new husband Hank (Dwayne Johnson). Their relationship is the traditionally uneasy son-stepfather bond, as Hank struggles to connect with Sean until the pair decode a message sent by the latter's missing grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine).
The transmission kick-starts the adventure as Sean and Hank head out to the Pacific in a bid to discover Verne's Mysterious Island. Along the way they pick up Gabata (Luis Guzman) and his daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens), who fit the roles of comic foil and love interest for Sean.
Director Brad Peyton cranks up the visual awe and wonder, blasting out Andrew Lockington's John Williams-inspired score at key dramatic moments. The motley crew of adventurers have no human antagonists to face, only a menagerie of exotic creatures and shifting tectonic plates threatening to flood the island. It's The Goonies meets Jurassic Park, but with no palpable sense of danger or tangible baddie it comes across a tad Spielberg-lite.
The cast make the most out of a slim script from Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, with Johnson and Caine's constant sparring a highlight. Hank comically teases Alexander by mocking his British accent and calling him Mary Poppins, while Caine - filling the Sean Connery/Last Crusade doting OAP role - chips away at his muscular rival's confidence with some precision-guided barbs.
Caine hit a career low fleeing from killer bees in 1978's The Swarm, but here he leaps on to the back of giant buzzing creatures for one of this movie's more enjoyable set pieces. The 78-year-old is his usual effortlessly charming self, though it's hard to imagine that he took on the role for any reason other than a handsome paycheck.
Johnson, a more commanding presence than his franchise predecessor Brendan Fraser, happily sends himself up by firing berries off his "popping pecs" and strumming a banjo while singing 'What a Wonderful World' around the campfire.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island chugs along at a brisk pace, slotting all the required elements into its action-adventure template and coasting on the charm of its dependable stars. It's a lot more entertaining than you'd expect, but don't go in expecting anything revolutionary.