Posted: 07/13/2008


Journey to the Center of the Earth


by Morgan Phelps

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Things you probably didn’t know about the center of the Earth: it’s home to carnivorous plants but cannot sustain life due to its extremely hot temperatures, it has cell phone reception and it’s not free from bad acting. At least, that’s the 3D version of Earth’s core you’ll see in Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Adding a third dimension gives the illusion that this movie is more exciting and surprising than it is. Besides the fact that I didn’t like being tricked into thinking I was watching a decent movie, the threat of being slapped in the face with flying objects for an hour and a half, or at least the appearance of them doing so, was equally unappealing to me.

The last time I remember seeing Brendan Fraser in a movie was probably the last time I saw a 3D movie, when I visited Disney World at age 10. Since I refused to see the Mummy movies due to my reluctance to commit to trilogies, the last time I saw Fraser in a good (or potentially good) movie was—never. Maybe it’s just me, but I would not consider Bedaazzled, Blast from the Past or George of the Jungle to be cinematic masterpieces. It made me wonder if Fraser has been a victim of bad casting or he’s just a bad actor, but both were so bad this time that I couldn’t make a definitive conclusion on this front.

Fraser plays a Trevor Anderson, a physicist and professor whose lab is about to close due to a lack of funding and understanding of progressive volcanology. Big shocker: the failing scientist is also a klutz and has virtually no game with women.

When his nephew Sean stops by for a 10-day visit, his mother drops off a box of Sean’s father Max’s possessions as well. Along with a yo-yo and baseball mitt is a copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth, a novel from 1864 by Jules Verne, complete with Max’s notations from 1997, the year that he disappeared.

After decoding the cryptic notes, the two head off to Iceland to find either Max or the center of the Earth. On their way, they come across mountain guide and physicist’s child, Hannah Ásgeirsson, played by Anita Briem, who tries to save the men from their bumbling ways and a few near-death mishaps, but ultimately, is no help in keeping them on solid ground.

Smart and tech-savvy Sean, played by Josh Hutcherson, took the words out of my mouth when he said, “Man, I really wish I’d read that book.” Maybe it would have helped me understand how this was so different from Jurassic Park, besides the fact that I was practically in the dinosaur’s mouth thanks to my handy 3D glasses. But a reading isn’t really necessary before viewing the film, since Hannah and Trevor explain every unfamiliar object in textbook-friendly terms. It’s like a science lesson, except the fact that none of it is real; and therefore, the knowledge is mostly useless.

One lesson I did take away from Journey is that Brendan Fraser’s simplistic (and frankly, dumb) acting is perfect for children’s movies. The kids in the audience were lapping up his corny lines and even swooning as he used his apparent lack of charm to score points with mountain guide Hannah, who he too easily charmed despite an awkward “dibs on the mountain guide” comment that made me cringe almost as much as I did during the subsequent kiss.

Because I’m past the age of six, even 3D glasses and a few Loch Ness monsters swimming at the center of the Earth couldn’t fool me into thinking the plot of this remake was any less cheesy or into believing that Brendan Fraser should be starring anywhere outside of Blue’s Clues.

Since the book plays the most dynamic and insightful character in the film, you can save yourself a few dollars by going the library instead.

Morgan Phelps is a student, writer and photographer in Chicago.

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