July 10, 2008

Deep Down 3-D

"Journey to the Center of the Earth" is cinematic sci-fi proof that the Earth's core is made of cheese. Who knew? Mercifully, it's old-fashioned family-friendly B-movie cheese, served up in this Brendan Fraser/Jules Verne action epic for kids.

Seek out this "Journey" in a theater showing it in 3-D. You'll want the T-Rex, with his snapping teeth, the bioluminescent birds and the gigantic Venus flytraps. This is 3-D the way it used to be - playful, but not really a technology that can lift a middling movie much beyond tolerable.

Fraser stars as a Trevor Anderson, a teacher of "tectonics physics," a man who has studied the deep geology of the Earth and its relationship to the drift of continents. His brother did the same. But Max, that brother, went missing 10 years ago. When Trevor baby-sits Max's 13-year-old son, Sean (Josh Hutcherson), they stumble across Max's annotated copy of Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Max, it appears, was a "Vernian," somebody who took the 19th-century sci-fi writer's fiction as fact. And he disappeared looking for a way into the center of the Earth.

So the lads race to Iceland to follow Max's trail, take up with a doubting and sexy Icelandic mountain guide (Anita Briem) and work their way into the planet through a volcano, facing one crisis after another with one one-liner after another.

The director, one-time special effects specialist Eric Brevig, doesn't skimp on the spectacle. Fraser, as in the "Mummy" movies, has a lightness to his performance that keeps this from turning tedious. The short running time helps, too.

Is it fantastic as film fantasy? Not really. But then, if you have got anything in memory to compare it to, it is not for you. As a fun piece of kids' sci-fi, "Journey" has science and pseudo- science and cliff-hanging action, all flung at you through those wacky 3-D glasses.

- The Orlando Sentinel

journey to the center of the earth

Director: Eric Brevig

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem

Rating: PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments.

Theaters: Stadium 14, Forum 8

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