As the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." By Hollywood's logic, that also means "if it works once, do it again." The studios have been scrambling to turn once profitable films and franchises into tomorrow's hits and Disney is no exception. Accordingly, the House of Mouse has revisited the beloved Witch Mountain films with a big budget remake; Race to Witch Mountain.
Could Dwayne Johnson be Disney's latest contract player? After starring in The Game Plan, Johnson reunites with director Andy Fickman and this time, they take a trip to the sci-fi, family film genre. The man formerly known as "The Rock" stars as Jack Bruno, an ex-con struggling to turn his life around by driving a Las Vegas cab. If complications and repeated visits from Sin City's criminal element weren't enough to make his life difficult, things become really strange when a pair of normal-looking teens appear in his cab with a wad of cash.
Before he knows it, he's being chased by ominous black vehicles, UFO's and an armor-clad alien warrior. Bruno's passengers, played by Anna Sophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) and Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker: The Dark is Rising), are indeed visitors from another world. If Bruno can't help them escape government officials and the alien assassin hot on their trail, it could mean bad news for everyone on Earth.
Race to Witch Mountain boasts a solid cast. Johnson has always been charismatic (even if he can't seem to land a great film role) and he's ably supported by the charming Carla Gugino (Spy Kids) and a menacing Ciaran Hinds (Munich). It's a good trio to start with, but the script tends to let them down. Wait a minute. I should remember that this is the remake of a live-action Disney film. Anyone expecting Shakespeare or an in-depth, thought-provoking film should consider themselves crazy. This is simple, entertainment for the masses...kids especially.
With that in mind, I still have to say the film gets off to a rocky start. Young actors Robb and Ludwig don't get the chance to show a lot of depth. Portraying aliens, they get the stereotypical "robotic" dialogue you expect from aliens hiding on Earth. There's also a strong emphasis on action and a lot of silliness as well. After having three unmarked SUV's smash into his cab, Bruno takes a tire-iron and threatens his (unbeknownst to him) government attackers. I imagine they'd be a little woozy after getting into a pile-up, but don't government agents usually carry guns? Apparently, they don’t in Disney films, or at least not until later in the film. If that wasn't enough, after witnessing the kids sliding their hands into a strange alien goop, fighting what appears to be a robotic Power Ranger and being chased down a train track by a UFO, Bruno still has a hard time believing the kids are extraterrestrials. Really? Are you serious? I'm fairly skeptical, but that would be enough to convince even me. Like I said, the script leaves a little to be desired.
However, after this clunky and somewhat ridiculous start, the movie evens out a bit. The dialogue is still silly and the story is definitely geared toward younger viewers, but somehow, I started to get into it. You'll never mistake this for high-quality film-making, but if you can put your brain and suspension of disbelief on hold for a bit, you might just enjoy it. Race to Witch Mountain moves at a quick pace, never giving the audience too much time to realize they are watching a very cheesy flick. Younger kids will probably like it, but adults will likely be a little bored. I'm not sure this is something you'll want to watch too many times, so I'll say just rent it.
2 out of 5
The Blu-ray disc for Race to Witch Mountain presents the film in 2.40:1 aspect ration and 1080p high definition. Audio comes in a robust 5.1 DTS-HD track with a variety of bonus languages.
Surprisingly, this set is a bit light on bonus features. The best is called "Which Mountain." This 8 minute feature discusses the large number of Easter Eggs found in the movie. If you’re a big fan of the original, you no doubt noticed names and faces previously found in the old movies.
Aside from that, the disc comes with the standard grouping of deleted scenes (23:10) and bloopers (3:37). Continuing with their trend, Disney has packaged the Blu-ray disc with a standard DVD and a digital copy which you can download to your computer or portable device. You usually expect more supplements on a Disney disc so this very light package draws only a low rating.
Bonus Features rating
2 out of 5