Thursday, January 08, 2009

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1989)

I could write for the next hundred years and not be able to adequately convey how stinky this pile of poop is. Don't let the cool-looking creatures on the box fool you. They're barely in the movie and even then only in a dream sequence.

The story's about a young, English girl named Crystina who's wanted her entire life to be a nanny. It's all she's ever dreamed of. Unfortunately, she's not very good at it and is just about ready to call it quits when she gets an offer to watch some rich person's kid in Hawaii. So, desperate for any assignment she can get, off to Hawaii she goes, but it's not really a kid she's supposed to watch... it's a dog. I forget why the punk rock star who owns the dog needs a dog-sitter, but he does and for some reason he called all the way to England to get one. Those crazy rock stars.

Meanwhile in the same Hawaiian hotel, three rich kids named Richard, Bryan (played by the kid from Weird Science who isn't Anthony Michael Hall), and Sara are visiting the island with their neglectful parents. Apparently, they come here every year and have a tradition of going off up into the mountains to hang out in one particular cave. In a "comedy" of errors though, Crystina - with a boy's haircut that would've irritated me even in the '80s (and I had a mullet for crying out loud) - is in front of the hotel as the rich kids are driving off and an inattentive valet puts her doggie in the back of the kids' jeep.

There's a lot of neglectfulness and inattentiveness required to keep the plot moving in this thing. Crystina hires a cab to follow the jeep, but once they all reach the mountains, she gets out without telling the cab not to drive away and strand her in the middle of nowhere. Because you know you have to tell cab drivers these things. So, oopsie, now she's stuck on whatever adventure the kids get into, which entails going just inside the cave to sit around and do nothing. Except the dog runs off and little Sara chases after him and the older kids all have to go after Sara and the dog...

Only Sara ends up sort of safe while Crystina, Richard, and Bryan (and maybe the dog; I forget what happens to it) get trapped by a cave-in and have to keep walking deeper towards the center of the Earth where they worry about what creatures they might find there (see above). I say Sara is "sort of" safe because we never really see her again. Having got the "important" characters trapped into the plot, the movie quickly tosses her aside and forgets all about her.

Eventually, the gang discovers the lost civilization of Atlantis. But not a cool lost civilization of Atlantis. Oh no. This is a civilization made up of people who weren't quite good enough for Road Warrior, Escape from New York, or Poison videos. And they're led by the least intimidating evil general you've ever seen: a woman with no facial expression, an even worse haircut than Crystina's, and an eyepatch. Eyepatches can be cool, but this one's working way too hard to make up for the failure of everything else about the character.

At this point, the movie becomes about Atlantis' plan to take over the surface world and the kids have to stop it. I couldn't have been more bored. There's a brief moment of almost-fun as Emo Phillips plays a mad scientist, but they don't give him any good lines and it's a wasted cameo.

And speaking of cameos, the most recognizable name in the credits was Kathy Ireland, but if she had any speaking lines in the movie, I was sleeping through them. She plays a woman who came to Atlantis from the surface a while back and somehow (I never quite figured this out, but again, I was zoning out a lot in the last half-hour) instigated the non-intimidating general's plans to attack our world. So, she gets talked about a lot and we see pictures of her, but I couldn't swear that she's actually in the movie.

I learned later that this movie was a sequel to the movie Alien from L.A. in which Kathy Ireland apparently does star as a young woman who goes to the center of the world, finds Atlantis, and meets the same lame-o general. I find that a little weird, especially because Ireland's character is named Wanda Saknussemm. And according to IMDB, she goes to Atlantis looking for her father, an archaeologist named Arnold Saknussemm.

Now, I still haven't read Jules Verne's book, but there's an Arni Saknussemm in the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, so obviously the filmmakers were thinking of Verne as they made Alien from L.A. I wonder if they had the sequel in mind as they made it or if they just used Saknussemm's name as an homage and that suggested the sequel later on. I don't really care, but I wonder.

At any rate, now I kind of want to see Alien from L.A. and see if it's at least enjoyable schlock. Because its sequel certainly wasn't.

One out of five non-existent cave monsters.

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