By Robert Mann.
Following the success of his first Disney film, the enjoyable if unspectacular The Game Plan, wrestler turned actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has finally become a notable power at the box office with family movies currently being where he is directing his efforts after failing to make a good enough impression with action movies. Now comes his second Disney feature in the form of Race To Witch Mountain, an effects heavy action adventure remake of classic Disney films Escape To Witch Mountain and Return To Witch Mountain. Unlike Johnson’s first Disney film, however, which was aimed almost entirely at young viewers, this film has several things going for it, including the nostalgia factor for parents who saw the original films when they were children and possibly some UFO fans who may also get a kick out of some of the film’s content.
Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is a cab driver in Las Vegas who lives a mediocre existence with little excitement in his life. However, all this changes when he picks up Sara (Anna Sophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), two mysterious children who claim to be aliens from another planet. What starts out as a normal cab journey soon turns into an action packed adventure for Jack as he finds himself forced to protect Sara and Seth from both a secret government agency under the leadership of Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds) and an alien bounty hunter out to kill them. Sara and Seth’s mission is get back to their ship so that they can return home and prevent an impending invasion of Earth, and, in trying to help them, Jack enlists the help of UFO expert Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino). With the fate of not only Sara and Seth but the entire human race hanging in the balance they all try to get into the top secret facility at Witch Mountain where the ship is being kept in order to save the kids and thus save the world.
As you would expect from Disney, Race To Witch Mountain is a film that is neither deep nor thought provoking. What it is though is a very enjoyable film that has something to offer viewers both old and young. While the film is light years away from the originals in virtually all aspects the film probably has nostalgia value for some older viewers with fond memories of the original film and for the younger viewers the film is a fun action filled adventure with a good vein of clean humour running through it. This is also a film that may hold appeal to another group of viewers as well though – UFO enthusiasts. This is due to a number of references and in-jokes present in the film, ranging from the opening credits which use photos, newspaper stories and television footage to show the history of UFOs to a brief cameo appearance by real-life UFO researcher Whitley Strieber. Such elements will likely mean very little to the majority of moviegoers but to anyone who is interested in the world of UFO research these references are quite smart and well placed and may make the film a bit more enjoyable. For everyone else, though, there is still plenty to enjoy, with some quite thrilling car chase action, very good special and visual effects, and some enjoyable performances from the cast.
Dwayne Johnson again proves very entertaining in a very light role that combines his family movie nice guy persona with some of his action star style. Carla Gugino is also pretty entertaining, even though her screen time is less than Johnson’s, and there is also an amusing role for Garry Marshall as a UFO researcher. As for the rest of the cast, the kids are well cast with both Anna Sophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig effectively capturing the cold, reserved nature of their characters and Ciarán Hinds makes for a suitably sinister bad guy. The storyline is rather predictable and a sub-plot revolving around Johnson’s character seems rather pointless and irrelevant, failing to add anything to the film or help to move things along, but it flows at a reasonable pace and does exactly what it needs to. All together, Race To Witch Mountain probably won’t be fondly remembered like the original films that inspired it but on its own terms it is a fun family film that should be enjoyed by both children and their parents.
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