Movie Reviews

Race to Witch Mountain

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Jack Bruno
AnnaSophia Robb as Sara
Alexander Ludwig as Seth
Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman
Ciarán Hinds as Henry Burke
Tom Everett Scott as Matheson
Chris Marquette as Pope
Billy Brown as Carson
Garry Marshall as Dr. Donald Harlan
Kim Richards as Tina
Ike Eisenmann as Sheriff Antony
Tom Woodruff Jr. as Siphon
Paul Darnell as Siphon
John Duff as Frank
Bob Koherr as Marty

Summary:
"Race to Witch Mountain" is definitely family friendly and entertaining for younger kids, but there were a lot of missed opportunities to spice it up and play with UFO mythology more.

Story:
This is an adaptation of the book by Alexander Key and a remake of the Disney film "Escape to Witch Mountain."

When two alien children with amazing powers crash land on Earth, they soon find themselves on the run from government officials and an alien assassin. Fate leads them into the taxicab of Jack Bruno in Las Vegas. Once a promising young racecar driver, he's now a washed up taxi driver with a criminal background. Bruno soon finds himself pulled into helping the kids despite his better judgment. And the children, Sara and Seth, will need his help on their mission if they're going to save Earth.

"Race to Witch Mountain" is rated PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements.

What Worked:
Like any kid that grew up in the '70s and '80s, I fondly remember "Escape to Witch Mountain." It was like "Close Encounters" for kids. I was curious to see if this film would fall into the sequel category or the remake category (it's a pretty dramatic remake). I was also curious to see what my kids would think of it.

I took the whole family to this screening which was a bit of a risk. My 4-year-old can't sit still very long and he was bouncing off the walls before it started. But as soon as the movie began, they were all entranced. It moved along fast enough and there wasn't much break in the action, so they sat still. And it appealed to both my 9-year-old daughter (who identified with Sara) and my 6-year-old son (who loved the action and The Rock...er... Dwayne Johnson). So as far as family outings go, this was a great success. I didn't have to drag anyone out of the theater or pull them off of the floor out of the goo. That wins points in my book.

Keep an eye out in one scene for Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, the kids from the original films. It's fun to see them back on the screen. (A bit of trivia for you - Kim Richards is Paris Hilton's aunt. Now you learned something today.)

What Didn't Work:
Unfortunately, overall, this movie was a bit flat and I think a lot of opportunities were missed to spice it up. For example, Sara and Seth are quite dull. I mean, they're aliens and they act like the kids from the first movie, but they're still dull. They're 'straight men' for Dwayne. One of the few times they get interesting is when Sara talks telepathically to the dog, but that's a relatively small part of the movie. The government officials are rather cookie cutter, too, and don't have anything that makes them interesting. And I'm a big fan of Dwayne Johnson and I'll watch whatever he's in, but his character needed a bit more personality. He's great in the action, but his delivery of the humorous lines wasn't all it could have been.

"Star Wars" fans will be amused to see a couple of stormtroopers regularly pop up through the film, but in the end they're treated like the UFO conventioneers also shown in the movie – they're portrayed as weirdos and losers. I'm not saying UFO buffs aren't weirdos and losers, but the movie seems to be biting the hand that feeds it. The UFO enthusiasts could have been used as something more than stereotypical cheap shots at laughs.

One other nitpick – though this is called "Race to Witch Mountain," there's no real race. They only find out they need to go to Witch Mountain in the final minutes of the film. And Witch Mountain isn't the UFO landing zone that it was in the previous movies. I can't talk about it without getting into spoilers, but what it really is kind of defies logic, especially since Garry Marshall has so much information on it.

The Bottom Line:
Overall this is a solid kid's movie. If you have to entertain kids 12 and under over Spring Break, then I'd recommend "Race to Witch Mountain." Anyone older than this should break out a "Close Encounters" DVD or even the original films or go watch another Dwayne Johnson movie.

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