Race to Witch Mountain (2009)

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After a successful collaboration with the family comedy The Game Plan, former wrestler turned actor Dwayne Johnson and director Andy Fickman reunite for this update of the classic Disney films revolving around two special children with extraordinary powers.

Jack Bruno is a cab driver in Las Vegas who is trying to go legit after working for a mob boss and has spent time in prison for grand theft auto. He likes his job only for the mere fact that it is making him a straight man. One day, he finds two teens unexpectedly in his cab. The teens are Sarah and Seth. who are not exactly what they seem to be.

At first, Jack thinks they are just ordinary kids. However, when they begin to get pursued by the government, the truth is revealed. Sarah and Seth are aliens whose parents were scientists who have discovered a way to save their dying planet by collecting some of Earth’s natural resources. However, their government wants to invade the Earth and the kids are the only hope to save their planet and to stop the impending invasion. However, not only are the U.S. government after the two, but an alien military assassin has arrived to Earth as well. Jack and the kids must rely on scientist Alex to find their ship and save both their homes before it is too late.

In the 1970’s, Disney unleashed the films Escape from Witch Mountain and Return to Witch Mountain, which starred Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann as Tia and Tony, two extraterrestrials who have the powers of telepathy and control matter. This updated version of the two films combined brings the use of modern technology and have a duo of villains, one in a group of U.S. government agents who want to expose them as well as an alien being who is revealed to be an assassin for the military of the teens’ home planet. For some reason, the assassin is reminiscent of Predator, encased in armor and not truly revealed until the finale and looking quite hideous.

Dwayne Johnson brings in a pretty good performance as cab driver Jack Bruno. Johnson has always had a flair for both action and comedy, with some of his best performances in the comedy department in films like Be Cool and The Game Plan. He does most of the same here and yet, we learn more about Jack’s past and how he tries to escape it. For his new adventure, Jack sees it as an opportunity for something more positive in his life.

Playing the new alien teens are Annasophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig. The two definitely represent opposite sides of the spectrum. Robb’s Sarah is somewhat quiet and determined yet trusting of Johnson while Ludwig’s Seth can be seen as somewhat of a hot-head who feels that no human can be trusted and uses his powers to effect a little too much at times, almost on the border of recklessness.

Ciaran Hinds brings his evil snare to the role of Agent Burke, a determined government agent who becomes hell-bent on getting the mission complete. He does anything to get what he wants, something he brought in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, where he played the film’s main nemesis as well as the abysmal-looking Steppenwolf in the recent Justice League. With his looks and acting skills, it is no wonder why Hinds would make the perfect villain actor for this project, despite having polar opposites of henchmen, one whose determination makes Burke proud, and a rookie agent who has some sort of sympathy for the kids.

Fans of the original films will be in for a surprise as the original kids, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, make cameo appearances in the film. In a scene where Jack and the kids end up in a small town, Richards is seen as a waitress at a local club while Eisenmann plays the sheriff of that town. In fact, Eisenmann’s character is “Sheriff Anthony”, a play-off for his original character of Tony with Richards as “Tina”, playing off the character of Tia. This could possibly indicate that perhaps the original siblings are now grown up and in this small town living normal lives, shown in the form of some subtlety.

Race to Witch Mountain is definitely one for the family to enjoy. It is a pretty good update to a classic Disney film series. One can say remake, but looking deep into it, it may not be that much of a remake but more an update. Nevertheless, a fun family film.

WFG RATING: B+

A Walt Disney Pictures production. Director: Andy Fickman. Producer: Andrew Gunn. Writers: Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback; based on the book by Alexander Key. Cinematography: Greg Gardiner. Editing: David Rennie.

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Everett Scott, Chris Marquette, Billy Brown, Garry Marshall, Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann.

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