Wednesday, July 9, 2008

‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ is a 3D wonder

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journey to the Center of the Earth

Rated PG. 92 minutes.

3D Comedy Adventure.

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem.Director: Eric Brevig.

Geological science and common sense suggest that the earth’s core is probably molten metal seething under unspeakable pressures. Backpackers arriving there would most certainly have a very lively, but brief, time of it.

In this latest version of Jules Verne’s adventure tale ‘‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,” the moviemakers have flung common sense to the floor and danced on it. When their heroes arrive at the center of the planet, what do they find? Do they crisp before squishing? They do not. They find a tolerable world, no hotter than Bethesda in July, lit by magma skies, with tropical-looking critters and the occasional frolicking dinosaur.

If nothing else, it beats anything so far this summer for sheer goofiness.

It is fitting that the movie stars Brendan Fraser. The actor, whose perfect comic blend of the stalwart and the dim gave Dudley Do-Right, George of the Jungle and Encino Man their je ne sais quoi, is pretty funny. This ‘‘Journey” is touted as the first full-length feature in full 3D; the glasses are serious business, none of those cardboard-and-cellophane jobs.

Fraser plays intrepid tectonophysicist Trevor Anderson, on the trail of his missing brother, a fellow geologist. His snippy teenage nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) in tow, Anderson follows ominous evidence to Iceland, where a gorgeous guide Hannah (Anita Briem) is looking for her missing father. The three make their way underground, then hurtle down ‘‘volcanic tubes” to the remarkable new world some 3,950 miles down.

So, what would happen when you got to planetary ground zero? You would then ‘‘be” the center of gravity. Could you, for example, spit in your own eye?

Alas, the movie replies in terms that are merely preposterous, eye filling and even occasionally intense. The slapstick is of the benevolent and goofy kind, and an extended action sequence involves a careening race in out-of-control mine cars.

The 3D delivers a ticket’s worth of startles: lighted flares and yo-yos thrust in the face, a luminescent bluebird that seems likely to fly up the nostrils, and so on. ‘‘Journey” requires lights out in the penthouse; no brain cells will be harmed in the watching of this movie. Some viewers will both crisp and squish at the idea of the venerable Verne played for laughs, but most will be happy for the thrill of having a dinosaur drool on them.