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"Journey To The Center Of The Earth 3D" **1/2 (89 minutes)

Monday July 7, 2008

After screening 21 documentaries in 8 days, it was back to the summer circuit. It was time to ditch reality for fantasy and the latest in a long parade of mostly lame Hollywood "Summer Blockbusters"-the term that was born with the June 1975 release of the great "Jaws". Rookie director Eric Brevig delivers the special effects in spades (maybe not that surprising considering his only other previous screen credit was for special effects in Arnold's enjoyable 1990's "Total Recall" & his work on "Pearl Harbor"). Warner Brothers/New Line is releasing this one in 3D (now labeled as "Real D") which earned it at least a 1/2 star in my final 2 and a half total. At a brisk 89 minutes, this "remake" of the 1959 original starring Pat Boone and James Mason based on the Jules Verne classic, moves nicely along and isn't a total failure mainly due to the pleasant personalities of Brendan Fraser, newcomer Michelle Pfeiffer look-a-like, Anita Briem, and veteran young actor, Josh Hutcherson ("Bridge To Terabithia"). Not a remake in the strictest sense of the word, the film asks the question: "What if Jules Verne was right-that there was, indeed a pathway to the center of the earth instead of being just a fantasy in the mind of the great novelist?" Fraser plays the science professor who theorizes that Jules was right. When his sister drops off her son (Hutcherson) and several of her late husband's belongings (he happened to be lost trying to prove Verne's theory was fact), before you can say "let's get to the center of the earth already" the 2 are off to Iceland to find a scientist who may have discovered Verne's entrance to the earth's depths. Instead, they find his (of course) beautiful live alone daughter (her dad died 3 years earlier), who agrees (for 5 grand an hour) to lead them to the entrance. The implausibility of all this is so freakin' ridiculous that you have to laugh at it all-along with the (intended) light humor of the script. It's almost a guilty pleasure as you watch these 3 maneuver their way through the abyss for most of the running time. I've seen 50's B movies more believable than this, and your eyes will roll so often that you'll end up missing a lot of the 3D effects. But, then again, you were expecting "War and Peace" here?