Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (2008 telefilm/Hallmark channel). Director: T. J. Scott.

Yet another version of Jules Verne's classic story, this was probably rushed out because of the Brendan Fraser theatrical version. For one thing, in both movies the entrance to the underworld is through an abandoned mine (which has nothing to do with Verne). In this a wealthy woman (Victoria Pratt) hires Jonathan Brock (Rick Schroder) and his nephew Abel (Stephen Grayhm) to go find her missing husband (in the Fraser version it's a missing brother). It seems to take forever until they're actually under the Earth, and then in five minutes -- vavoom! -- they're suddenly at the center!! There is no attempt to make the underground world look like it's actually under the Earth -- it just looks like the sunny, unremarkable outdoor location it is -- and there's no sense of wonder or atmosphere of any kind. There is one -- and only one -- good scene, and that's when they cross the lake and a gigantic plesiosaur attacks their raft. This monster is very effective and credible. But after that all you get is the missing husband -- played by Peter Fonda, of all people -- who has become the leader of a group of sub-humans. The acting in this is professional, and Pratt -- despite a somewhat irritating haughtiness -- and Mike Dopud as the big handsome Russian Sergei have a lot of presence. This is about neck and neck with the direct-to-video version made the same year, but nowhere near as good as the 1959 adaptation.

Verdict: Not worth the journey. **.

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