Movie Review for Race to Witch Mountain (2009)

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Race to Witch Mountain (2009) [PG]
W.I.P. Scale™ Rating: $10.75

| Released on: 3/13/2009 | Running Time: 98 minutes |
| official web site | | preview trailer | |coverage of premiere |
| soundtrackSteve Rushton - Race to Witch Mountain (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) | | buy the book|| spoiler || 2cOrNot2c |

Directed by: Andy Fickman (The Game Plan)
Screenplay By: Matt Lopez (The Wild) and Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) with story by Matt Lopez
Based on the Book, Escape to Witch Mountainby Alexander Key
Unsung Member of the Crew: Loader – Russ Miller

Featured Cast: (where you might remember him/her from)
Dwayne Johnson (Get Smart) • AnnaSophia Robb (Jumper) • Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising) • Carla Gugino (Watchmen) • Ciarán Hinds (Stop-Loss) • Tom Everett Scott (Because I Said So) • Chris Marquette (The Invisible) • Billy Brown (Lakeview Terrace) • Kim Richards (Escape to Witch Mountain) • Ike Eisenmann (Escape to Witch Mountain)

Having been a huge fan of the original Disney® movie duo Escape to Witch Mountain and Return to Witch Mountain, when rumors of a reboot began circulating followed by confirmation that Race to Witch Mountain was to become a reality, naturally there was an air of excitement when, at last, the Disney® film logo on screen dissolved into a shadow of Witch Mountain and a space ship is seen colliding with the ground just outside Las Vegas. As it happens, everything about the reboot brings the story up to date from it’s eco-friendly plot, to its unlikely hero in the form of ex-con Vegas cab driver, Jack Bruno (Dwayne ‘Seems he no longer wants to be called The Rock’ Johnson), who begrudgingly befriends Sarah (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), to nefarious government agency headed by Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds) hell bent on catching the aliens in the craft and subjecting them to unspeakable experimentation. While the film has been rated [PG] by the MPAA, a [PG-13] would suit the film more appropriately. This film is somewhat violent, scary, and more in line for the late tweens than the 7-9 year olds of the original. The writers and director have turned the film into more of an action sci-fi than a fanciful adventure. From their first moment of screen time, the talented AnnaSophia and Alexander Ludwig must have been coached to project but one emotion and that was dread. Unfortunately, this weighs down the film making it far less enjoyable than it otherwise might have played out. Their characters are on a vital mission, yet they never have a drop of fun despite having amazingly cool powers and intelligence vastly superior to most adult humans with whom they come in contact. If there’s one flaw to the film, it’s that the fun and sense of adventure has been stripped away vs. the original. Things that sparked a chuckle in the original fall sort of dry here. There are, however, some touching scenes, especially toward the end of the film.

... the fun and sense of adventure has been stripped away vs. the original....
You’ll have to check out the spoiler for more precise details regarding the plot, but suffice it to say that the plot varies greatly from the original. At once this is both a good and bad thing. It’s great in the sense that the writers have created a new relevance to the story. It’s bad because what used to be a great movie for kids may be too much for them to get all they might out of it. Just a few scenes of the kids having a bit of fun rather than always being so serious would have improved the film dramatically. Using the ‘evil government always hunting aliens for experimentation’ motif was also a bit has been. There also was at least one inexplicable occurrence that bears contemplation (see the spoiler). On the brighter side, the principal cast was very good. Their characters weren’t written as artfully as possible, yet, for the most part, they turned out likable enough. If you want to see the full range of the acting capabilities of AnnaSophia Robb, see Bridge to Terabithia; and of Alexander Ludwig, see The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising in which they led their casts as well as their films. Sadly, both of the aforementioned films, also, were a bit better than Race to Witch Mountain as were their performances. Still, it’s easy to see each has a bright future ahead. As for Dwayne Johnson, he could have sleepwalked through this role; and, it seems in places, like he might be. Carla Gugino, as Dr. Alex Friedman, provides some dramatic relief, but even she seemed aloof most of the time. The film suffers from a heavy feeling of detachment as a sense of connection between the characters and the audience never form. In that, the film is more like watching a car chase than living it. Likewise, the script seemed to be formulated by checking off elements from a punch list rather than by weaving a harmonious and insightful narrative.

... the script seemed to be formulated by checking off elements from a punch list rather than by weaving a harmonious and insightful narrative.
All in all, despite a likable cast, this reboot called Race To Witch Mountain missed expectations and failed to capitalize on the elements of fun that would have established the film as a true winner for fans of the originals and the next generation.

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