Written by Hombre Divertido
Hitting shelves on August 4th, less than five months after its theatrical release, is the Dwayne Johnson vehicle Race to Witch Mountain from Disney. Though the story may be based on Alexander Key’s novel Escape to Witch Mountain, it holds few similarities to the 1975 film of the same name. TRace to Witch Mountain is just that: a race, full of car chases, gun fire, explosions, and a terminator-like creature that bares a resemblance to the Predator minus the dreadlocks. Yes, there are two alien children trying to get to their ship, and they do eventually use a Winnebago, but it is hard to find any other resemblance to its 1975 predecessor.
As is the case with many movies directed at children these days, it appears that the philosophy is simply to give them action in lieu of depth. The plot is spelled out early in the film, and it heads towards its destination at a break-neck pace, with little time for any character development. Dwayne Johnson may be a bankable action hero, but lacks the comedic chops to pull off some of the light-hearted moments needed to generate laughs in between car crashes. The children (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) are given little to do here other than act robotic, and never seem to generate any empathy from the audience. Carla Gugino, as a doctor who is an expert on extraterrestrials, is corralled into helping out, but she appears to simply be channeling her character from Snake Eyes, and adds little to the film.
Considering that the cast does include cameos by Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann who played the young aliens in Escape, you would think that one of them might have mentioned that they worked with a superior script 35 years ago, but apparently they did not, or no one was listening.
The producers may have picked up on the fact that the film was lacking, as they appear to be scrambling to add to the dynamic by throwing in Cheech Marin as an off-duty mechanic, and Garry Marshall as an author of books on aliens. Both talents are wasted as is that of Tom Everett Scott as one of the government agents chasing after the youthful aliens. Even Meredith Salenger makes a cameo giving a shout-out to her Disney roots as news reporter Natalie Gann. Unfortunately, the additional casting does little to help, and the audience spends much of the 99 minutes imagining how casting Bruce Willis, or someone with more comedic experience than Johnson, in the lead would have given the film the comedic elements needed to make it reasonably enjoyable.
The new release comes as a Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo, an extended edition DVD/digital copy combo and a single-disc addition. The special Blu-ray bonus “Discover Hidden References” lets you know important facts like the number on the cab that Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is driving is 1975 because that is the year Escape was released. The blooper reel is almost as forced as the movie itself.
Recommendation: Race to Witch Mountain is not a bad popcorn film if you check your brain at the door, but lacks the depth of story and character possessed by Escape to Witch Mountain. Pick up Escape instead.