We begin with some awkward family drama: Sean (Josh Hutcherson) is a rebellious teenager who lives with his mom (Kristin Davis) and her boyfriend, Hank (Dwayne Johnson, AKA “The Rock”). Sean is barely civil to his mom and not at all to Hank, still angry with being moved away from his friends, and determined to leave home somehow, even if it’s a trip to juvie (the nearest juvenile detention facility).
Hank tries being a nice guy to Sean, despite looking so muscle-bound he could tear him apart with his bare hands, but nothing works until Sean receives an encoded message from his long-lost grandfather. Hank, conveniently having been a codebreaker in the Navy, translates the message, about Sean’s grandfather actually discovering the mysterious island of Jules Verne’s novel, and next thing you know, we’re off somewhere in the remote South Pacific, on a bonding trip.
It seems the particular area in question is like the Bermuda Triangle, the place of accidents and disasters and mysterious disappearances, and they can’t hire anyone to get near it, except Gabato (Luis Guzman, who adds some nice comic touches), who just happens to have a lovely daughter, Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) to throw some sparks for Sean. (Hank, to his credit, avoids leering at her.) You guessed it, they find the island, all right, but they’re stranded on it, and together they go in search of Granddad, Alexander (Michael Caine) who, happily, finds them. And even more agreeably, he has constructed a Robinson-Crusoe-type jungle bungalow, from which they can explore this strange land where the bugs are big and the animals are small. Oh, and the sharks are miniature and the spiders are monstrous, and the bees are mountable and rideable.
It’s all kind of goofy, innocent fun. Hudgens walks around in a skimpy outfit the whole time, The Rock gets to wear a tight T-shirt and constantly flex his big muscles, Caine plays the spritely explorer and Guzman cracks the one-liners. Oh, and we throw in some Jules Verne literary stuff, but not too much, lest we forget we’re just on a lark expedition here, and having a little innocent fun.
Is it anywhere near believable? Of course not. But that’s not the point. It’s harmless kid stuff and a little bit creative and not too scary. Just don’t think about it too much, and pass the popcorn.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.