Race to Witch Mountain
I am usually not a big fan of remakes. They tend to be only a shadow of the original and typically are devoid of the qualities that made the original popular enough to have the studios consider revisiting the same story in the first place. In recent years many studios have come up with a slight variation of the remake inventing the term ‘re-imagining’ in hopes of making sound more legitimate. Again, in the vast majority of the case where this term is applied the resulting movie ranks far below the original. Then there are some stories that are conducive to being retold every generation or so. While typically these are among the literary greats there are times when it is just a fun tale that can support a change in viewpoint or setting. One genre that does appear to work in this regard is the family film. A case in point for this consideration is ‘Race to Witch Mountain’. It basically follows the fundamental premise of the classic 1975 flick ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’ but here the modernization works better than I had anticipated. The story works as well if not better than it did in the original and when coupled with a dynamic cast provides a fresh an enjoyable family movie night flick. Many have come down on this movie as being lacking originality and to some extent the point is well made. It is important to consider the target demographic here. Basically no one in the current viewership will remember the original or if they have seen the recent DVD release certainly will not have the nostalgic sentiments about it. To them this movie will come across as intended; light entertainment for kids of today. Naturally, the movie comes out of the Walt Disney Studio. Say what you will but they do know how to make family films. It is not out on Blu-ray and standard DVD so you can gather the kids around, make some popcorn and have a goodtime as a family.
The story comes from the paring of two fairly well established writers; Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback. Lopez has one previous screenplay, another special effects dependent family film ‘Bedtime Stories’ while Bomback has more extensive credits in action, thrillers and Sci-Fi with ‘Live Free or Die Hard’, ‘Godsend’, ‘Deception’. Considering the type of movie this is the combination works out well. This partnership affords familiarity with presenting a story from the kid’s point of view while incorporating action that the entire family can get into. It should be remembered that what is new for a ten year old may not be appreciated the same way by the grownups watching. Like the original the story follows a pair of teenage aliens trying to stay ahead of the government and get back to the space ship that can return them home. For a kid this is a very real fright; being cut off from family and desperate to go back home.
Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is an ex-con living in Las Vegas and trying to distance himself from his past crime by living on the straight and narrow. To this end he now drives a cab in order to make a meager living. One day his passenger happens to be Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) who is a scientist with the lamentable belief in extra terrestrial life. Later Bruno notices two kids sitting in the back of his cab; Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig). They want Bruno to drive them to a mysterious location, a house in the middle of nowhere, for which they are willing to pay $15,000. They got the money using strange abilities on a nearby ATM. Meanwhile, Major Henry Burke (Ciaran Hinds) is busy investigating the report of a UFO landing nearby a couple of days ago. The kids have also been targeted by the ‘Siphon’, an alien search and destroy creature. Making the threat more urgent to us earthlings the kids explain to the somewhat confused cabbie that they come from a planet where the government was planning to conquer the earth. Their parents were scientist who has hidden a device on earth that will save their dying planet and negate the need to take over earth. This course of action is opposed by the alien military that would rather have an excuse to invade us and take our resources. The adults watching will get a kick out of the attempt to relate this aspect of the story to some contemporary topics. Like the original the kids have special powers; Sara is telekinetic and telepathic while her brother can control his molecular density allow him to pass through mater or become super dense.
The cast, at least the adults in the main roles, are already familiar with family flicks as well as having made a mark in more mature oriented movies. Dwayne Johnson originally was known by his professional wrestling moniker, ‘The Rock’. He broke into film with action roles in the ‘Mummy’ and ‘Scorpion King’ franchises. He has been breaking away from that on screen persona in favor of a gentler, humorous big guy such as seen here. Despite his size the man comes off well for the younger set; more of a good guy than threatening so a part like this is perfectly suited to him. Carla Gugino is one of those rare actresses that can combine gorgeous looks with a real sense of comic timing. She can play sexy as she did in ‘Sin City’ then turn around with a family film like the ‘Spy Kids’ flicks. The two young actors playing the teen aliens do a great job of selling their roles to the audience.
Disney is jumping on a new trend with the distribution of this film for the home theater market, for a couple of dollars more than the special two disc DVD you can opt for the three disc deluxe release, this has one disc in DVD, another in Blu-ray and the third has the digital copy suitable for transfer to your lap top. This makes this perfect for families on a long summer vacation drive, you can watch the high def copy at home with the best possible video and audio and have a travel copy to keep the kids occupied on the road.