Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, ...
Credit: Sebastian Raymond

When I was a kid, the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth, with James Mason, Pat Boone, and a lot of slithery cool dinosaurs, was one of my favorite movies to catch on Saturday-afternoon TV. It had a certain odd gravitas, with its crew of explorers getting increasingly desperate in their attempt to survive. (The sight of an actor as refined as Mason running around in rags was a shock.) The new Journey to the Center of the Earth, whether or not you see it in 3-D, has about as much gravitas as a helium balloon. Brendan Fraser, as a floppy-haired academic looking for holes in the planet, takes his 13-year-old nephew and a pretty Scandinavian guide along with him, and the three never stop moving — rocketing around on diamond-mine carts; plunging through a muscovite floor and falling down, down, down; scurrying away from a T. rex (him again!) and other familiar terrors. Last year’s Beowulf employed 3-D with a certain fairy-tale savvy, but Journey is just the new version of a 1950s comin’-at-ya roller coaster, with a tape measure, trilobite antennae, and giant snapping piranha thrust at the audience. Yet wandering around the earth’s stalactite-dripped core exerts a primal appeal even in a dumb kiddie joyride like this one. In the best scene, Fraser’s nephew clings to floating magnetic rocks above the deepest abyss you’ve ever seen, a situation that could give even jaded videogame kids vertigo. B-

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
  • Movie
  • 93 minutes