Under all the CGI and 3D bling of Journey to the Center of the Earth lies a vapid story only emphasized by the greatness of its Jules Verne-penned source material. A word to the wise for Walden Media, the company that transforms literature into flashy features (two of its more successful adaptations being Holes and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe): stop borrowing so many Disney tropes (a character makes a pal out of an iridescent bluebird) and create a movie that doesn’t dumb down the book it;s based on.
Brendan Fraser headlines this family flick that overtly trades on the popularity of his $800 million Mummy franchise (the next edition of which comes out later this month). Fraser phones in his performance as a geologist in search of his missing brother, with the help of two companions: a nephew and Icelandic mountain guide that are just as banal as their leader. Fraser’s character brings to mind Nicolas Cage’s turn in The Rock — both nerdy scientists taken out of their elements to do rough-and-tumble field work. While Cage’s performance as a biochemist with equal parts humor and quirky geek-ness was the highlight of a silly movie, Fraser’s wide-eyed bumbling is mind-numbingly boring. That, layered atop a lackluster script not smart enough for parents and action sequences not exciting enough for youngsters, turns what’s supposed to be an exciting expedition to the Earth’s core into a time-suck fall down a black hole. Bottom line: skip this stinker, and take the family to see Wall-E again.