If you missed this summer's theatrical release of New Line Cinema's
Journey to the Center of the Earth, it's available on DVD this week. This
version of Jules Verne's classic adventure -- starring
and Anita Briem -- appeared in theaters in 3-D, and the DVD
release contains both 3-D and 2-D versions of the film, as well as several bonus features.
The film itself is entertaining -- not fantastic, but fun. It scared my son in both 3-D and 2-D viewings, not enough
to send him screaming from the theater or TV room, but enough to have him cower in my lap and ask me to cover his eyes
so he could peek through my fingers. He was less frightened, and enjoyed it more, in 2-D, which is a good thing, because on DVD
the 3-D experience simply did not work. We tried using both the paper red-and-green glasses provided with the disc (you get four pairs), and the
glasses we saved (and somehow managed not to lose) after watching it in the theater this summer. Neither set worked. The paper
glasses rendered everything on screen either red or green, and the theater glasses didn't even do that. We even tried layering the glasses, to no avail. Mr. Wonderful (a.k.a. my husband) postulated that the problem may lie with our hardware -- something goofy between our
huge new television and our year-old DVD/VCR player -- but I'm not sure I buy that theory. Whatever the case may be, the Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D DVD was a no-go in the Harvey house.
The bonus features included with Journey follow the 3-D lead; they are, with one exception, a bit of a disappointment.
The commentary by Brendan Fraser and director Eric Brevig is, to my mind,
a lesson in tediousness. While I usually enjoy watching interviews with actors and directors, viewing an entire film while listening to
the actor and director banter and reminisce sets my teeth on edge. In addition to being a bore, I find these sessions go a long way toward
ruining the magic that made the film fun in the first place. I couldn't get all the way through this "bonus."
"A World Within Our World" was my, and my family's, favorite feature on this disc. It was really interesting, kind of wacky, and a
bit of a surprise. Narrated by Anita Briem, this feature chronicles both the scientific and literary history of the notion of a hollow
earth, also known as "A World Within Our World." Neither overly long nor professorial in tone, this feature provides the kind of informational tidbits that are fun to whip out at parties or in the classroom -- particularly if the subject is something like "comparative religion".
"Being Josh" is a brief, perfectly nice look at a day in the life of the young man, Josh Hutcherson, who plays Sean in Journey.
It paints a clear, neither particularly glamorous nor exciting, picture of the realities of being a child actor, which is useful information for any child (and their parents) harboring dreams
of a movie career.
"How to Make Dinosaur Drool" should have been a lot of fun. We were expecting to come away with a new favorite science experiment.
Instead, this feature not only made the dinosaur drool in the film seem a lot less gross, it also, by illustrating the time and effort
involved in shooting the scene in question, rendered it a lot less exciting. Of course, if one is planning to make a home movie featuring
dinosaur drool, this might be helpful.
Likewise, "Adventure at the Center of the Earth" sounds a lot more fun than it is. This feature includes two video games, one involves
directing speeding mine cars, the other, batting toothsome fish. Three of us tried these games, and here is what we found; in the mine car
game we didn't even have to push a button for it to successfully navigate at least nine threats unscathed. As for the fish, the pattern was
not too difficult to figure out, but if the DVD remote was not pointed at exactly the right spot, it didn't work and the player lost. Of
course, like the 3-D glitch, these issues may have something to do with our TV/DVD set up, or not.
Overall, the best part of the newly released DVD Journey to the Center of the Earth is the film itself. While we enjoyed the 3-D
theater version, the 2-D version was perfectly entertaining
despite a couple of mildly incongruous moments that were obviously designed to take advantage of 3-D technology. And, while my kids are happy that
we own it so that they may watch it repeatedly, once or twice was plenty for me.