This dumbed-down spin on Jules Verne's classic adventure tale was devised as a kid-friendly roller-coaster ride, and it delivers the goods. Whether anyone over the age of eight wants the goods is another matter altogether.
Geology professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) is about to lose his lab – a smarmy colleague needs more storage space and no-one cares about boring old plate tectonics anyway – and gain an unwanted houseguest: His nephew, surly, 13-year-old Sean (Josh Hutcherson). Sean is the son of Trevor's older brother, Max, who vanished ten years earlier in Iceland, where he was trying to find a portal to the center of the Earth. Along with Sean, Trevor's sister-in-law delivers a box full of Max's old stuff, including his closely annotated edition of Verne's novel: Max was a true believer, convinced that Verne's book was reportage, not pioneering science fiction. And curiously enough, certain notations correspond exactly to seismic readings Trevor has been collating – could they be clues to Max's whereabouts? Max heads for Iceland with Sean in tow, and hires comely mountain guide Hannah (Anita Briem) – whose late father was a "Vernian" like Max – to take them to the site where Max vanished. And wouldn't you know, all three fall and land in the very world Verne described, a prehistoric wonderland filled with giant mushrooms, vicious dinosaurs and phosphorescent bluebirds. It's the scientific discovery of the century – the hitch is getting back to the surface to tell the world about it.
Veteran special effects artist-turned-director Eric Brevig's embrace of gimmicky 3D images is so shameless it's charming: The film opens with a scuttling trilobite waggling its feelers into the lens and never misses a subsequent opportunity to throw something audience-ward, including a wayward yo-yo and T Rex spittle -- the only thing missing is a paddle-balling carnival spieler and a melting house of wax. Young children will get a giant-sized kick out of it, and everyone else should take a pass.
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