Race to Witch Mountain

            After working together on Disney’s The Game Plan in 2007, superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and director Andy Fickman team up again in Disney’s newest movie Race to Witch Mountain. A “modern re-imaging” of the popular 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain, which was based on a 1968 book with the same title written by Alexander Key.  The story is adapted for the screen by writers Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) and Matt Lopez (Bedtime Stories). Race to Witch Mountain is an entertaining movie, but it is not destined to be remembered as a Walt Disney classic. 

            The movie opens with a mysterious crash of an unidentified object just outside of Las Vegas. The crash site is quickly swarmed by government agents led by a tenacious man named Henry Burke (Ciaran Hinds, There Will Be Blood). After making an incredible discovery, the area is quickly sealed off and a search begins for possible missing aliens.

            Meanwhile, Jack Bruno (Johnson) is trying to put his troubled past behind him and make an honest living as a cab driver.  Jack meets Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino, Watchmen), an astrophysicist, when she hails his cab on her way to a sci-fi convention. After a short ride and quick conversation, Jack is invited to Dr. Friedman’s presentation. The next day starts off rough for Jack when two thugs from his past show up at his job and try to “persuade” him to do one more job for their boss. After using a little muscle and with the help of a local cop, Jack is on his way for what he thinks is a normal day of work until he notices two teenagers riding in his backseat.

            Sara (AnnaSophia Robb, Jumper) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig, The Sandlot 3) appear to be normal teens, but after they display their powers and have an encounter with an alien assassin, we know they are far from ordinary. Sara and Seth’s planet is close to self-destructing and they’ve come to Earth to get evidence that shows their world can be saved. However, the military on their world just wants to invade and conquer Earth. Now, they need Jack and Alex’s help to get their ship back, which is being held within a secret government base inside Witch Mountain, so they can return home to save their planet and ours.            

            Race to Witch Mountain has a little bit of everything for a movie fan. It has plenty of action. There are car-denting car chases, the music of gunfire, and jaw-breaking brawls. Science fiction is covered with colorful laser blasts, sleek designed spaceships, and a resilient alien assassin cut from the mold of the Terminator/Predator movies. Comedy is attempted with some one-liners delivered by Jack and veteran TV funny man Gary Marshall acting like a corny UFO conspiracy nut. Action and science fiction work pretty well, but the comedy doesn’t. Maybe Bomback and Lopez should have let Gary Marshall write the comedy parts, and then there would be something to laugh about. 

            Dwayne Johnson has no problem supplying the brawn to this project as he “lays the smackdown” on thugs, government agents, and an alien assassin. Funny in other movies, even Dwayne’s natural wit can’t save the lame comedy lines he’s given here. Carla Gugino is in no short supply of beauty, but she is not given much of a character to allow us to notice her for any other reason. AnnaSophia Robb definitely looks more polished with her acting than her less-experienced counterpart Alexander Ludwig. Alexander’s expressionless-face and monotone delivery of his lines made him seem more like a robot than an alien. The best performance comes from Ciaran Hinds as a cold-hearted government agent. His icy tone and heartless attitude makes it easy for us to hope that he’ll be the victim of a bodyslam or a laser blast. Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, the young stars of the first “Witch Mountain” movie, make cameos as a waitress and sheriff.

            While there is no reason to race to the movie theater to see Race to Witch Mountain, you’ll be entertained once you’re there.

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