Race to Witch Mountain
Fun Rock, Dull Kids

If this were the classical Hollywood era, Race to Witch Mountain would likely have been released on the bottom half of a double bill with a more prestigious, bigger-budget film.  It’s a B-movie; and like most B-movies, it may lack  top-of-the-line production values, but it is nevertheless a fun and entertaining escape.  If you need more proof of its B-movie status, check out the disc-shaped flying saucer waiting at Witch Mountain.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Jack Bruno, a non-believer who has gone straight as a Las Vegas cab driver after spending some time in prison for grand theft auto.  A former driver for the Vegas mob, Jack’s driving skills turn out to be much more needed than expected when two normal-looking kids show up in the back seat of his cab.  It immediately strikes Jack that something might be wrong when these kids produce a large wad of cash, but that doesn’t stop him from taking his large fare to an abandoned house in the middle of the desert.

Dwayne Johnson as Jack in Race to Witch MountainThat could have been the end of it, but being too good of a guy to accept a five-hundred percent tip, Jack ventures into the building and eventually into the “pimped out” fridge where he discovers a truth he never thought existed.  He also discovers himself caught in the middle of these odd kids and a determined team of agents of the Department of Defense intent on capturing these human-looking beings, so they can run their sci-fi movie-cliché experiments.

With a title like Race to Witch Mountain, I really expected the movie to have a more of an up-against-the-clock feel to it.  Sure, we’re told that if the alien visitors don’t get back to their home planet in time with proof that life can be sustained, the planet’s military will obliterate all Earthlings, but I never got the sense that this was happening any time soon.  There’s no Arquillian battle cruiser hovering above Earth’s atmosphere threatening annihilation in a galactic standard week like in Men in Black; just two kids who seem very determined.

Race to Witch Mountain falls well short of being a great action sci-fi movie, but it is still a very enjoyable watch.  There is plenty of both action and comedy and the movie moves along at a fairly brisk pace.  For a modern science fiction movie, the special effects aren’t terribly impressive and it seems like budget issues possibly limited the ability to create some breathtaking set pieces.  For instance, an opportunity to create a mind-blowing train-is-derailed-by-collision-with-spaceship sequence is reduced to a rather obvious rear projection moment seen through the rear window of the cab.

After successfully making the jump from professional wrestling to the silver screen, The Rock seemed to be the obvious heir apparent to Arnold Schwarzenegger with action hits like Walking Tall and The Rundown, but has apparently decided to go the Kindergarten Cop route and focus on more family-friendly fair.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Johnson has a certain level of charm that works well for these kinds of movies and he’s a good fit for the role of Jack Bruno.  He gets to flex his action muscles, but also show off his talent for comedy first demonstrated in the otherwise disappointing Be Cool.  I just hope he hasn’t completely given up on more adult action flicks.

The Rock’s personality is especially important to this film since the child stars—AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig—lack any kind of charm or even cuteness.  I understand they are alien beings, but do they have to be so one-note and dull aliens?

The Race to Witch Mountain may have its faults, but it is still an entertaining movie that is likely to appeal to the entire family.

Race to Witch Mountain is rated PG for “sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements.”  The action scenes can get quite intense and might be scary for younger kids, but that’s really all there is to worry about in this otherwise family-friendly film.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Race to Witch Mountain.