Race to Witch Mountain Review
I’ll admit it. I like Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as “The Rock”, as an actor. Ever since I worked on behind the scenes footage for “The Rundown”, I’ve realized how charismatic he is. Although many of his films have been sub-par, it is just a matter of time before he breaks out. When he signed with Disney, it was a good thing. His charm is perfectly suited for children’s action/adventure movies. Alas, “Race to Witch Mountain”, is a step in the wrong direction.
As soon as the opening credits finish, you’ll learn what kind of movie experience you’re in for. It’s loud, fast, and completely devoid of character development. “Race to Witch Mountain”, which is a re-imagining of the 1975 film “Escape to Witch Mountain”, embodies almost everything that has been wrong with 90% of action/adventure movies in the post-“Armageddon” era. It plays like a 99-minute music video; it never takes the time to tell a story; and, worst of all, it’s boring.
The premise is intriguing enough. Two alien children, Sara and Seth (played by AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig respectively), enlist the help of taxi driver Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) and Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) to find their ship. Their ship, of course, is being held captive at Witch Mountain, an Area 51-like government facility that apparently everyone knows about, but no one believes is real. It’s crucial for Sara and Seth to get to their ship and return home with a formula that will save their planet from death by pollution. If they don’t, the rest of their species will have no choice but to attack Earth and take it over as their own. While there is clearly an attempt to make a statement on global warming and the environment, the idea is simply glossed over and doesn’t live up to its potential.
Jack Bruno is the center of the film. He is an ex-criminal attempting to go straight and earn enough money to buy the car from “Bullitt.” His old criminal ring is trying to track him down and get him to work for them again; yet, outside of a minor, pointless skirmish, this plot line goes nowhere.
The movie quickly cuts between Jack Bruno’s wild taxi ride and government agent Henry Burke’s (Ciarán Hinds) search for the children so he can run horrible tests on them. That is, unless the killer alien from their own home planet gets the children first. This creature looks like a Power Ranger villain and is even less scary than one. Burke, like many of the characters, is clichéd in both his actions and dialogue. The most enjoyable performance comes from a small cameo by Garry Marshall, whose mere existence in the film is absurd enough to make it enjoyable.
In “Race to Witch Mountain”, clichés and absurdities are tossed around more frequently than curse words in a “South Park” episode. At one point, a train has a full speed, head-on, collision with an alien spaceship. Later, we hear the government agents mention that the conductor, who was in the exploding engine car, is fine. Sure, this is to avoid showing a random death in a children’s film, but please, don’t insult our intelligence in the process. At the very least, show him jumping out before the collision. Everything else in the film is clichéd, what would be wrong with adding that?
At its core, “Race to Witch Mountain”, could have been a cheesy, but enjoyable movie in the vein of some great eighties children’s adventures such as “Flight of the Navigator”, or “Cloak and Dagger”. There are instances when Dwayne Johnson’s charm shows through, but overall, the movie never uses his skills to their potential. Children may still enjoy the big explosions and corny humor, but there are better films in the genre that their parents could be taking them to.