Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) **1/2*

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1hr 32min
Director: Eric Brevig
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Genre: Drama
Language: English

Wish We Had Read the Book

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




If brachycardia is getting you down, this movie may be just the ticket for you.  Guaranteed thrills, chills, things coming at you, chomping at your neck, threatening to boil you alive in hot lava, lots of chutes, very few ladders.  Right from the beginning, the momentum is great and it propels you, the audience, and the three adorable characters down into the depths and into the action. You can’t help asking: how are they going to get out of there?  But that’s not a question that seriously troubles our high-on-life protagonists.  (Dialog runs like this:  “Oh the temperature’s going to hit 9000 degrees soon?” “Well, I guess we’d better hurry!”)

The plot has an interesting frame: Trevor (Brendan Frasier) is going through his late brother Max’s effects and stumbles upon Max’s annotated copy of the Jules Verne book.  He quickly realizes that Max was right and that everything in the 1864 book was the absolute truth.  So Trevor grabs Max’s 13 year-old sullen teen, Sean (Josh Hutcherson), flies to Iceland and with the help of an eyecatching mountain guide, Hannah (Anita Briem), sets off to find the portal to the hidden realm.

The adults are vaguely familiar with the book, Sean not at all, and we can assume the same is true for most of the audience.  That creates a kind of tension as we wait to see what comes next and beat up on ourselves for not paying more attention to the book.  What else does the book say? We want to know as the latest carnivorous creature shows its ugly head.

Right here let’s say that this movie has everything a child (and his parent) would love — heart-thumping terror, daredevil escapes, fantastical creatures.  You ask yourself why they aren’t more scared — you’re a wreck! Omigod, they just got separated!  But guess what?  All three escape with not one broken bone, sprained ankle or even bruise!  (I think Hannah may have had a smudge on her face at the end.) So, not to worry, there is this cartoon character invulnerability built in — they just bounce.

Now to the characters: Brendan Frasier is his usual slightly dopey, lovable self, and his moment of intense bonding with his nephew are thoroughly believable and moving.  You realize that Trevor hasn’t seen Sean in six years despite the fact that Sean’s an orphan — what kind of uncle is that? — and you’re gratified to know a new relationship has been forged in the smithy of the earth’s bowels.

Anita Briem, an Icelandic actress, is a wonderful role model for young girls (and not-so-young women) as she’s every bit as smart and competent as the guys.  There’s no hanging on the sidelines here, waiting to be rescued.  She’s also a very beautiful woman and the budding romance is fun to watch.

Josh Hutcherson’s actually 16 years old,  a terrific young actor from Kentucky who conveys a lot of emotional depth and is very believable in this role.

The selling points for this movie:

  • the special effects and action scenes are truly scary, more so because you care about the characters and what becomes of them;
  • there is no doubt that children (and some adults) are going to check Jules Verne’s classic out of the library and become true “Verneans.”

Note: The movie is shown in both 3D and non-3D, depending on the theatre you choose.  We saw it in non-3D and it was plenty scary without being in your face.

Shelly Hanner, a retired government executive, is honored to be reviewing for this site, and wants everyone to know his teeth are his own. Janet Garber, a human resources executive and published author, has been living with Shelly's corny jokes for some time now, and her only escape is going to the movies!


Wayne D. said on July 16, 2008


Sounds like a great movie Shelly & Jan! Right up my alley and I might like to see it in 3D. All those monsters jumping out at you might be kinda cool! I’ll have to put this one on my ‘bucket’ list. lol

jprinceler said on July 27, 2008


Enjoyed the review. Went right to the center and makes me want to see the movie.

Olonbayar said on August 1, 2015


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