Sara and Seth are two children who crash land on Earth attempting to save their own planet. They find themselves hunted by an alien predator and the United States military and their only ally is an ex-convict cab driver.
Dwayne Johnson, the artist formerly known as The Rock, has almost completely moved away from straight-up guy action movies. After making some really good action flicks that underperformed at the box office (Walking Tall, The Rundown) he finally hit box office pay dirt with a family film (The Game Plan) and it looks like he is leaving the guy flicks in his rear view mirror.
Race to Witch Mountain is as kid safe a movie as you can get. It is a reimagining of the classic 1970 Witch Mountain movies and casts Johnson as Las Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno, an ex-convict who is trying to go straight. It is clear he is annoyed by his life in Sin City and is currently experiencing the agony of working during a science fiction convention.
There is not a better actor in Hollywood that can express comic exasperation while never leaving the viewer in doubt of his machismo as Johnson. His timing is impeccable as always and he continues to prove he is a star waiting to break out with the right project. There might still be a bias from the anti-professional wrestling crowd who are still not willing to give him a chance but Johnson is the perfect Hollywood star.
In Race to Witch Mountain, he is tasked with playing off two children who are at times both endearing and annoying, yet carry their part in the movie admirably. Fifteen year old AnnaSophia Robb, best known from the Johnny Depp vehicle Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is Sara and Seeker star Alexander Ludwig is her brother Seth. They are aliens who have crashed to Earth searching for some evidence they can save their home planet from extinction and stop an impending alien attack of Earth for re-colonization purposes. Ludwig is very wooden in his portrayal but since he is based on an alien that can be forgiven. However, Robb plays her role with an almost teary eyed sentimentality that is a strong contrast to that of her co-star. It makes Seth come across as less alien and more jerk. Neither child is bad in their roles, but it seems like they had completely different instructions on how to approach the alien attitude.
They are hunted by both an alien sent to kill them in order to force the invasion as well as the United States own military forces, who want to experiment on them. The movie turns into one giant chase movie as the kids try to avoid the hunter (similar to a Predator) and find their space craft to return home. They immediately enter the cab of Jack Bruno and the race is on.
The movie, what looks like an empty Disney kid’s vehicle, is actually a whole lot of fun. The film is carried by the charm and wit of Johnson and some impressive set pieces. The story flies along without much room for breath and the final battle in the U.S.’s secret Witch Mountain facility is a great action scene. The hunter is a dangerous, almost robotic character and is very frightening until the moment its mask comes off. The military is the ultimate evil, wanting to do unspeakable things to these children. At the start, the military leader Burke informs his men “these are not children … they are not even human.” He is a generic bad guy and, while some of his men seem to want to question his orders yet never do, it makes the government agents the most boring part of the movie.
There are a number of plot points that bothered me including how there were perimeter cameras that caused them to get caught at one point but when Jack and scientist Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) try to rescue the kids, they are able to get in without any detection. These moments are easy to dismiss because the movie whips by so quickly and you don’t even realize it until the final credits are rolling. A lot of Disney action movies geared towards the younger audience are hit and miss. Race to Witch Mountain is a distinct hit and thanks to Johnson and interesting directing by Andy Frickman, it is a great time for all ages.
For a Disney Blu-Ray, the extra features are pretty skimpy. There are about 3 minutes of bloopers and over 20 minutes of deleted scenes, with introductions by the director. The Blu-Ray exclusive is a feature called “Which Mountain?” in which homages and hidden Easter eggs are revealed. Some are pretty cool (the kids from Escape from Witch Mountain cameo in a diner scene) and some are just boring (oh look, there is the producer as an extra). The best part about this release, as with almost all Disney Blu-Ray releases, is the package contains the Blu-Ray, DVD and digital copy disc. Every Blu-Ray should include a DVD copy if they really want to increase sales. People who don’t have a Blu-Ray machine right now but might get one down the road are more likely to buy the Blu-Ray of a movie as long as they can watch it now as well. Plus, it allows a person to watch it on their main TV with the Blu-Ray player and still be able to watch it on other TVs (the bedroom, kid’s room) with the DVD copy. It is just a really, really good idea.