Mr. Movie

3-D is about all 'Journey' offers

In 1959, Jules Verne's novel Journey to the Center of the Earth was 100 years old. I was 10 that year and caught the movie at the Benton Theater in downtown Kennewick.

By the end of the run, I had seen it four times and remember begging my parents for an allowance advance to see it a fifth.

Journey to the Center of the Earth was the beginning of my lifetime love affair with science fiction movies. And to this day, it remains one of the best sci-fi films ever done.

A year ago, knowledge of a 3-D update had me and fans the world over drooling until two words caught our attention.

Brendan Fraser.

Arguably the most boring actor of the last decade, Fraser is known for an ability to completely suck the life out of a movie. As bad as Fraser is in the 2008 version, he cannot be completely blamed for its shortcomings.

The 1959 original mixes excellent scientific theory with a bona fide mystery. Though it doesn't follow Verne's story perfectly, the plot includes great characters, a world-class villain, plenty of action and adventure, dinosaurs, a dangerous giant chameleon, the lost continent of Atlantis and a really cool duck.

Very little of that found its way into the 2008 version, a film that physically has three dimensions but in plot terms can barely claim two. Director and visual effects whiz Eric Brevig's (The Day After Tomorrow) playful, but uneven multidimensional visual games are fun. He jolts the senses with creatures and objects that suddenly pop out at you. Tantalizing items of all kinds float before your eyes. Mere inches away, it is impossible not to reach out and attempt to touch them.

Alas the paint-by-numbers plot by three talentless writers can't keep up with the dazzling effects. Their story barely skims the surface of Verne's premise, has zero flow and is presented in predictable chunks. Reading the fine print on your auto insurance policy will be more exciting than slogging through the narrative.

On the plus side, the often-stunning 3-D effects do make Journey to the Center of the Earth worth a journey of your own.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars.

Rated PG for mature themes, some violence and scary scenes.

Opens today at the Carmike 12 and at Fairchild Cinemas.