I recently saw the American version of this film, which makes the odd choice of having the four adventurers fall asleep in front of a display of a war canoe manned by a wooden depiction of a shaman, and then somehow finding a magical hole through time in a Manhattan lakeside park. It's an unneeded framing sequence which puts the story on hold for several minutes and tries to ground the movie in reality before the fantasy takes over. You can tell where the Czech part of the movie takes over because the "real" movie doesn't bother to explain anything, including how the kids are able to somehow move to the beginning of time from the edge of the ocean they come down to at movie's end, or exactly how they get back from the Big Bang. It's as if the Western importers didn't trust American ability to just accept a child's adventure fantasy at face value. Still, the dinosaur models in the museum are awesome even now and I didn't really mind all that much as a result.
Now, on to the movie proper: there's a wonderfully organic feel to "Journey" as the director uses anything and everything in the way of special effects to immerse the audience into the boys' adventure - stop motion, puppets, animation, matte paintings, sculpture, and once in a while even some stock footage. Although the effects are somewhat primitive by today's standards (especially some of the animation), the story and sense of wonder are so well depicted that it just doesn't matter.
For an "adventure" story, not a lot really happens, although the kids do have a couple of close brushes with various animals (there's a genuinely startling moment with a jaguar perched in a tree and a chase scene with a prehistoric killer ostrich that is both funny and exciting). And the four characters are almost complete ciphers - aside from determination,resolve,and a certain amount of all-pull-together camaraderie there's not a lot of actual human emotion or personality on display here. (And no one seems to ever be worried about the effect their unexplained absence must be having on their parents!) The journey's the thing in this movie, but it works for that very reason.
One choice that firmly convinces me of the strength of the director's vision is the couple minutes at the end of the film that depict the actual "beginning of time" - instead of trying to blow the audiences mind with some titanic depiction of a Creator or the Big Bang, the Beginning is depicted with soft, indistinct, glittering shapes that leave almost everything up to the imagination. Brilliant.
I had never heard of this film before I saw it as part of a research project, and now I want to see everything this director has done.
Review by lemon_magic from the Internet Movie Database.