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Movie Review: JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3D (New Line Cinema, Rated PG ****)

July 12, 2008

JOURNEY is the action packed thrill ride that SPEED RACER should have been.  I don’t know, maybe if the Wachowski’s had done their movie in D, it would have been better, but I doubt it.  Anyway, JOURNEY launches us into a new era of 3D movies.  I was always fascinated by 3D as a kid, but never had too many chances to experience it at the movies, mainly because such movies weren’t being made when I was growing up.  And when I did get the chance, it was always with the red and green or red and blue glasses, which meant that if you were seeing a 3D movie that was SUPPOSED to be in color, you’d get the effects, but at the cost of awful color distortion.   Dolby Digital has changed that forever with their new technology.  If you see this movie in 3D, and I strongly urge you to find a theater that IS showing the 3D edition, you’ll be watching through a special pair of polarized glasses that are quite comfortable, and NOT made from cheap cardboard either.

The story itself is no slouch either.  Brendan Fraser is Professor Trevor Anderson, a geology professor whose career is threatening to crash around his ears.  It seems that the students at his college are as interested in his theories about the connection between volcanoes and Pangaea as they would be about the history of limburger cheese.  Knowing this, the college has decided to close Anderson’s department.  On the homefront, Anderson’s sister-in-law (Jane Wheeler) wants him to spend a few days with his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) while she goes to prepare a new home for herself and Sean in Canada.  It turns out that Sean’s father (Trevor’s brother)disappeared while Sean was very little.  Sean, meanwhile has become surly, unresponsive, obsessed with his PSP and FAMILY GUY-you know, your typical teenager (just kidding to all you teenagers out there-I know you don’t ALL have PSP’s).  Trevor and Sean soon discover a correlation between Jules Verne’s classic novel, Trevor’s research, and Sean’s dad’s last expedition.

It’s off to Rekjavik to put the pieces together.  That’s where they meet their guide, Hannah Ásgeirsson (Anita Briem), who agrees to help them for a price.  The adventure really begins to take off when the three of them get trapped in a cave on a mountainside.  The only way out, as they will soon discover is to find another way to go.  They get to the title destination only after having to stumble around above ground for a while, culminating with a thrill ride on a mining car.   I have to admit that I was a little worried about this scene.  I don’t do thrill rides very well for two reasons:  one, I have a mild heart condition, and I get motion sickness.  But it turned out to be as good as the runaway train sequences in POLAR EXPRESS, and I didn’t feel all that queasy.  But I will caution you nonetheless, I did feel a little out of sorts at the end of the movie, but again nothing to cause me concern.  My advice is close your eyes if and when you need to.

Just be careful when you do, because you may miss some really exciting moments including a battle with giant piranha fish, another battle with giant Venus flytraps, and of course the dinosaur that you see in the previews.  These are just some of the dangers the three explorers face as they try to find out what exactly happened to Sean’s father, and how to find the way out in one piece.  Credit also goes to the two Michael Weiss’s who kept the screenplay fun with some clever dialog and real dramatic tension and humanity.  All in all, this movie proves that you don’t necessarily need to plunk down 40 bucks to find a good thrill ride.  My one concern is going to be the DVD release.  I am hopeful that this Dolby 3D technology will transfer well to standard DVD as well as BluRay, because quite honestly, the red and blue glasses ain’t gonna cut it anymore.

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