Race to Witch Mountain
Directed by: Andy Fickman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Plot: A Las Vegas cab driver (Johnson) assists two alien teenagers (Robb, Ludwig) in retrieving their space ship which is being guarded deep beneath Witch Mountain.
Who’s It For? This film has a few moments that might be too scary or violent for children in the lower single-digits. Disney has crafted this film for its pre-teen audience, and they even throw in a cheap Cheech Marin cameo to keep parents from falling asleep.
Expectations: From its poster and first trailer, it looked like a carefully constructed science fiction adventure movie built for pre-teens still watching Disney. This is another feature length film based on a two-minute amusement park ride, right?
Dwayne Johnson as Jack Bruno: At times, the wrestler turned actor needs the same amount of WD-40 as his stiff young counterparts. Not even his character’s obsession with the ultra bad ass film Bullitt can save him. Within the boundaries of Race’s rating, Johnson is able to sneak a few punches in. However, in a film as childish and typical as this, he is reducing himself to rubble. The Rock used to cook up a can of whoop-ass, but now Dwayne is serving us another family-friendly role that might as well have been prepared in an Easy Bake oven.
AnnaSophia Robb as Sara: She comes to earth in peace – and with a better attitude than her equally-blonde brother. Robb doesn’t try too hard, which makes Sara a bit sufferable. However, her alien powers of telekinesis are frustratingly without logic, and used in instances only convenient to the film’s meticulously planned story arc.
Alexander Ludwig as Seth: This character’s coldness could only be mistaken by naive human beings such as kids for being serious. Parents who make a career out of staring back at such baseless glares will secretly find Seth laughable – at the least, a super brat. What’s wrong, sport? Did someone steal your collection of Astro-Pokemon cards? There’s a way to come off as intense without having to cock your head down and talking like someone is forcing you to eat broccoli – it’s called “acting.”
Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman: A standard plot-filling role: a beautiful walking source of information that helps the unlikely hero in his random adventure. Gugino does nothing to add to this part, but she is an accomplice in a disgustingly long plug for Apple’s Macbook laptops.
Talking: The dialogue is similar to the performance from which it is delivered – highly unremarkable and stiff. However, I enjoyed writing the quote “This is not Space Camp” (as said by Johnson) in my notebook. Maybe I will make a lot of money some day when I try to put it on a bumper sticker.
Sights: A train blows up, an alien ship flies away, and little Seth destroys a SUV by just standing in front of it. None of these looks particularly impressive, as the special effects border on passable. Considering these and other examples, it’s notable that SFX were not the film’s primary objective (but then again, what was?)
Sounds:Never one to miss a chance for a free plug, Disney throws in a Miley Cyrus song (“Fly on the Wall”) for about ten seconds in the beginning of the film. The score is even worse, as its consistent chugging of its string section becomes overbearing, as if the movie is trying to maintain the same tautness of a three-minute trailer for the span of a one-hundred minute feature film.
Best Scene: Carla Gugino sidekicks a bad guy in the stomach, and simply responds to Johnson, “I have three brothers.”
Ending: The space ship carrying the kids crashes, and the Rock returns to the world of wrestling, vowing some form of vengeance against gravity. Just kidding. But that was light years more interesting than how this movie actually ends.
Questions: Will an army of kids help make this movie number one at the box office this weekend, thus beating Watchmen?
Rewatchability: Young viewers who enjoy this film might want to revisit it once more when its on DVD.
Ed Wood’s crap-sterpiece Plan 9 From Outer Space came out in 1959. That was fifty years ago. So why do “humanoids” talk the exact same way – like robots programmed to speak broken English with their big words? In general, there’s a lot of that famous B-movie stench flying around the thrills of Witch Mountain. There’s a weird alien assassin named Siphon that hunts the kids (and kind of looks like a rebooted version of Creature from the Black Lagoon). The two kids have super powers, but their usage is marred by their unavoidable mindlessness. On top of that, the special effects presenting them are distractingly cheap. And then, of course the kids get a dog.
Starting at the opening credits, the film works at a desperate speed in order to reach its moments of cheap excitement. Witch Mountain races to provide the most disposable of fun, but by doing so forgets to take the essentials of brains or anything that resembles a genuine surprise along for the ride.
Final Score: 3/10