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Race to Discount Scifi Mountain

Movie title: Race to Witch Mountain (2009)
Grade: C+ (2 1/2 stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: A Las Vegas cabbie enlists the help of a UFO expert to protect two siblings with paranormal powers from an organization with nefarious plans.
Spoilers ahead: No

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I can give you the recipe for a great family movie, but in all honesty, you probably already have it. Take a little macho attitude, a touch of wacky humor, some adventure, lots of action in the form of fisticuffs and car chases, an animal presence, and a scifi element. Combine them all together on a G or PG-rated platform and you have one leg up towards having a good family film.

Race to Witch Mountain is straight-up family viewing for preteen-and-up kids. Some intense scenes and mature themes aside, you have a clean, action-packed film that sucks you right into a Speedy Gonzales of a story development. Heck, it could be touted as a flat-out cure for boredom!

Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is a cab driver, but not just any cab driver. He has a rough and seedy past and a lot of experience making less-than-admirable friends. Two things are going to happen; one, his past is going to come back to haunt him, and two, he's going to meet a boy and a girl ("Seth" Alexander Ludwig and "Sara" AnnaSophia Robb) who are unlike any he's ever met. They can do weird things, weird things of a totally different caliber from the normal "weird" things modern kids often do (like sending text messages while sitting right across from each other on the back bench seat of a minivan on the way to grandmas). I liked these kids. They played the best kid aliens I think I've ever seen.

These kids are on a mission, a very important one. It involves the preservation of our world. They crashlanded here and they need to get things right and get back with their own kind. In many ways, we have a plot similar to Flight of the Navigator (1986), a Disney film that bears some resemblance to this one, though Race to Witch Mountain is a remake of the renowned Escape to Witch Mountain (1975).

Tagging along with an enjoyable and lovable action movie, we have one of the all-time worst alien creature villains ever thought up. The "bad" alien is what could be called a cross between the ever-cool Predator and a dramatically dorky "Mutant" from the suckily dated scifi film This Island Earth (1955)--a creature in a suit with claws and an exposed brain! I swear, it was like they tried to sit down and think of the least interesting, least appealing, and most forgettable killer alien attack soldier ever. Job well done! He sucked at killing anyway.

Be ye warned that although Race to Witch Mountain had deep-pockets Disney behind its budgeting, the special affects are a crying shame and a dire disappointment. The gadgetry was profoundly cheap, nearly on level with a bargain bin B-movie from Walmart. Will the kids notice? Possibly, but probably not. Affects this bad are nonetheless inexcusable for Disney.

As stated, this film has a lot for everyone...action, aliens, half-nutty UFO enthusiasts, romance, car chases, a dog, people getting beaten up, an evil government agent and minions who have no souls, telekinetic/telepathic mind powers, and some mysticism--man hasn't yet learned how to unlock his mind to use it to its full potential, so we are told (modern New-Agers say the same thing).

All of this effort to stir into the plot savory broth didn't come without the opportunity to throw in a political statement on U.S. immigration and illegal aliens. The head honcho bad guy is made to say: "They're illegal aliens without so much as a green card. We can do with them what we want." Of course, the "evil" U.S. government is so harsh and abusive to these young, fictitious extraterrestrials, just as we Americans are to the illegals who break the law to cross our borders and drive without auto insurance and steal health care. You'd need round-the-clock care to miss this pathetic stab. Enough with the liberal politics, I say!

There is some difficulty in explaining how the government couldn't catch up to Bruno and the kids faster. The guy had his cell phone on him for the entire duration of the film, and being that they knew who he was and were on his tail from the movie's get-go, why they couldn't catch him sooner is somewhat of a mystery. It is, thankfully, an inconsequential one.

What we have here is darn good family entertainment where there's something for nearly everyone to enjoy. Sure, the characters are one-sided and the simplistic plot offers nothing to chew on, but the story is destined to plug a hole that needs filling on a boring afternoon or evening that stands wide open on your calendar. C+

(JH)

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Director: Andy Fickman
Starring: Dwayne Johnson "Jack Bruno," AnnaSophia Robb "Sara," Alexander Ludwig "Seth," Carla Gugino "Dr. Alex Friedman," CiarĂ¡n Hinds "Henry Burke," Tom Everett Scott "Matheson," Chris Marquette "Pope," Billy Brown "Carson," Garry Marshall "Dr. Donald Harlan," Kim Richards "Tina," Ike Eisenmann "Sheriff Antony"
Genre: Adventure / Fantasy / Scifi / Thriller

Comments

  1. I watched the original when I was younger and remember it fondly today (although it probably only holds up in my mind). I am glad that they updated it and kept it fun, I will rent it this weekend so my kids can also see it ...

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