Review by Jenna P.
“Escape to Witch Mountain” enjoys an undeniable place at the massive table of classics that Disney has offered us over the years. In the last three decades the movie has failed to slip into oblivion, and quite the contrary, as some might say it is worthy of cult status.
When Disney announced their plans to bring that franchise to a new generation I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was selected for the leading role it was even more puzzling. So I’m sure it will come as little surprise to anyone when I tell you that “Race to Witch Mountain” is an action flick for children.
When an unidentified flying object crashes somewhere in the Nevada desert, down-on-his-luck Jack Bruno (Johnson) finds himself the unwitting guardian of two children from another world. Bruno, an ex-mobster-gone-clean and trying to stay that way, agrees to take them into the middle of nowhere, thinking very little of two pre-teens offering him a giant wad of cash no their ability disappear at will from his taxi or to drive it from the backseat
Unbeknownst to Jack, the military, led by a gruff authoritarian figure named Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds), has already tracked the kids and are determined to stop at nothing to claim them for research purposes (or so we are led to believe). As if mobsters and military are not enough, an otherworldly assassin called a Siphon (Tom Woodruff Jr.) has been sent from the alien home world to prevent the brother and sister from completing the task they had set out to do.
As he attempts to keep the pair safe Bruno leads them on a wild ride across the Nevada country side, back into Vegas, and then on to California. Along the way there are plenty of car, spaceship, and train chases, crashes, and collisions. There are plenty of guns drawn, plenty of fist fights, and at one point even a table leg is brandished as a weapon in an ode to the wide world of professional wrestling where Johnson first made his name.
The magical abilities of the alien siblings Sarah (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) seem believable and I was pleased that they were neither over nor under used. In the two most CGI heavy scenes I was a little disenchanted with how unprofessional the special effects were. But the points being made for the plot were definitely delivered and I’m quite sure a younger viewer might find them dazzling enough.
Hollywood fans are likely to be thrilled by the brief appearance of Gary Marshall who plays a loveable if completely misguided conspiracy theorist with the means to assist the group on their quest to save the world. However these same fans are as likely to be disgruntled with how wasted his cameo seemed to be as they are to be impressed.
The re-imagined film has little of the charm and levity of the original or its sequel. It jumps in as an action film, making no apologies for that fact, and sticks to that formula for the entirety of the film though there is certainly enough humor to keep an audience of all ages chuckling. While the graphics, stories, and characters are all quite disappointing in their own ways the action and drive of the plot allows for some room for forgiveness.
All in all it was a fun 98 minutes. It isn’t very smart and could have used some improvements across the board but it is not a bad way to spend some time with your children.