It's an enjoyably ridiculous romp with far-fetched action for the kids and a few deranged gags for the grown-ups.
Now 17, Sean (Hutcherson) has intercepted a broadcast from his Vernian adventurer grandfather (Caine). He begrudgingly lets his stepdad Hank (Johnson) help decode the message, which says that Verne's Mysterious Island really exists, and that it's the same island from Stevenson's Treasure Island and Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Sean is determined to see it, so Hank accompanies him to Palau, where they rent a helicopter piloted by the goofy Gabato (Guzman) and his hot daughter Kailani (Hudgens). But after they find the amazing island, they discover that it's about to sink.
The film has a lively, comical tone that never takes anything terribly seriously, which kind of undermines the sense of wonder at what they encounter, including mini-elephants, gigantic insects and some Indiana Jones-style ruins.
The cheesy humour also sits at odds with the swelling sentiment as these characters all get off on the wrong foot, then learn that they need each other not only to get out of this situation, but also in their everyday lives.
It's not a bad message, and the cast is solid enough to have fun with the script. Johnson gamely plays the embarrassing stepfather right down to advising Sean about the girl-pulling power of the pec-pop. Caine grins broadly in every scene, clearly loving the chance to romp around in the jungle and ride a gigantic bumble bee. So it's Hutcherson who provides the acting chops, even grounding the slapstick romance with Hudgens, who wears as little as a PG will permit. And Guzman provides the comic relief.While the fantastical elements are easy to accept, thanks to whizzy effects work, most events along the way are painfully contrived. And some of the production design looks hilariously cheap. But it's the ride that counds. It gets rather uneven and bumpy, but the sparky banter and the way it plays with science and literature make it an entertaining journey. Next stop: the moon!
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th February 2012
Box Office USA: $103.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $355.7M
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Production compaines: New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 73
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Brad Peyton
Screenwriter: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn