It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" looks like nothing so much as one of those live-action adventures that Disney used to grind out in the 1950s — and hey, here's Captain Nemo's Nautilus to prove it. Also, a tree house to humble "Swiss Family Robinson," which contains a short-wave radio that has been assembled from old spoons, I think I heard.
The movie is very, very loosely a sequel to "Journey to the Center of the Earth," with only two connections: It's inspired by a Jules Verne novel, and it co-stars young Josh Hutcherson as the hero Sean. The film opens with him on a motorcycle and being chased by cops, but not to worry; all he did was break into a satellite-tracking station to boost the power on a message for help sent by his grandfather from a lost island in the Pacific.
Sean, whose father in the first film (Brendan Fraser) has disappeared (from the cast, anyway), now has to deal with Hank (Dwayne Johnson, aka the Rock). Hank is his new stepdad. Josh and Hank make friends by decrypting grandfather's message; Hank glances at it and intuits that the two-syllable words stand for dots and one-syllable words stand for dashes, which means Grandpa has had enough free time on his remote island to figure out a way to make Morse code several times longer than it previously was. Unanswered is why grandfather would encrypt a call for help.
This Hank, what a swell guy. He proposes that the two of them fly off to the Pacific and find Grandpa. On arrival somewhere, they hire a tourist helicopter pilot named Gabato, played by Luis Guzman as another one of those low-comedy guys who gets all worked up and is scared of stuff. (I enjoyed a reprise of this classic shot: Gabato runs toward camera, falls on stomach, looks up …and up … and up.)