The ever-affable Brendan Fraser leads this hugely enjoyable update of Jules Verne's classic adventure story about a haphazard expedition to a subterranean world. Fraser plays the American college professor who accidentally discovers a portal to another world populated weird and wonderful creatures from flying piranhas to a pumped-up T-Rex. The slick narrative is well served by stunning SFX (it used James Cameron's 3D technology), making it a great escape for the whole family.
Families looking for something to while away summer could do a lot worse than make this particular trip to the earth's core. It's the latest of many versions of Jules Verne's evergreen action yarn.
Everyone from Pat Boone in 1959 to odd comic Emo Philips thirty years later have made the trip... but this one is "the first live-action, narrative motion picture to be shot in digital 3D."
What that basically means is that you get everything from a cockroach's feelers waving over an audience of squealing ankle biters to a foul-fanged piranha leaping over their ducking heads. It's great.
Brendan Fraser - an actor seldom out of khaki - is the amiable college geophysicist who follows in the footsteps of his missing explorer brother...and finds himself tumbling down a volcanic tube in Iceland.
Joining him hurtling towards the earth's core are his cocky nephew Sean (Bridge To Terabithia's Hutcherson) and nubile mountain guide Hannah (Briem).
Miraculously landing safely with a big splash in a prehistoric pond, they find themselves in a surreal universe where mushrooms grow twenty feet tall, subterranean seas lap on sandy shores and dinosaurs are on the prowl despite having no apparent sources of food.
But let's not get too pedantic. Just enjoy it for what it is - a Saturday morning pictures yarn with a bigger budget and a fancy 3D camera borrowed from James 'Titanic' Cameron.
OK it's a commercial template for a theme park ride...but it's also a thrillingly enjoyable action caper that makes joyous use of the clever-dick technology available to it.
First-time director Eric Brevig, who cut his teeth as a special effects supremo on Total Recall and Pearl Harbor, knows his craft and keeps the action simple and effective.
Highpoints include Sean gingerly hopping across a chasm on shifting stepping stones held in place by a magnetic force, a drooling T-Rex and the salty crossing of a ocean containing writhing serpents.
What helps is the likeable cast. Fraser is an affable old hand at this sort of thing, Hutcherson is one of the few American teens you don't want to slap and Briern acquits herself well in her first major role.
It's great, family fun. Go the journey.