Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins.
Plot Synopsis: For years, stories have circulated about a secret place in the middle of the Nevada desert, known for unexplained phenomena and strange sightings. It’s called Witch Mountain, and when a Las Vegas cab driver finds two teens with supernatural powers in his cab, he suddenly finds himself in the middle of an adventure he can’t explain. They work together to discover that the only chance to save the world lies in unraveling the secrets of Witch Mountain, and the race begins.
Race to Witch Mountain is Disney’s latest attempt to remake one of it’s live action films, although after seeing this movie, I’m not sure if you can consider it a “remake” of Escape to Witch Mountain. I’d say the film is loosely based on the main points of the original Witch Mountain film. As is almost always the case, the remake pales in comparison to the original. In almost every way, this remake fails miserably in it’s attempt to be as entertaining as the original. If you have kids, they may just enjoy this film. I know my son did. But for all the parents who think they can take their children to a movie that they can enjoy as much as the kids will, you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised. Race to Witch Mountain is a film that has infinite potential for enjoyment by all, but refuses to cash in on ANY of it. Let me try to explain why you will be so disappointed with this film. Even though this review is intended to prevent you from watching this film, there will be no spoilers in this review, just in case any of you are “glutton’s for punishment.”
I’m going to start with actors, mainly the movie’s star Dwayne Johnson (former pro-wrestler The Rock). I’ve always been a fan of his. I think he is funny, charismatic, and truly talented. Now, I’m not saying you should stick him in a soul-crushing emotional drama, but he is fantastic in the action and comedy films he has been in. I believe that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson could be America’s next big action star. In that capacity, he could bring the action genre back to it’s glory days of the late 80’s/early 90’s. So seeing Johnson cast in another action film (albeit a child’s action film) was an exciting thing for me. Despite my disdain for remake’s, I was actually looking forward to taking my son to see this one. I left the theater immensely disappointed; Johnson did absolutely nothing new. He was the stereo-typical male lead in any live action Disney film. He was the “I’m too old for this” grumpy, bitter and sarcastic “reluctant hero.” He provided a little humor, he handled the “action” well, but he just didn’t stand out. It was very boring. Dwayne Johnson is a talented actor; why not take advantage of his skill set? Let his charismatic, leading man charm shine through, and the movie would be so much more interesting!
Along those lines, the other key actors/actresses in the film were equally disappointing. The kids/aliens were just so cold and emotionless. No charm, no intrigue, nothing. What you see is what you get. Not once did I ever feel any sort of connection to the characters. I just didn’t care what happened to them. I’ve always believed that a good actor/actress could pull you in and get you to care about the character they are playing no matter how bad the film is. I couldn’t possibly care less about any character in the movie.
A big issue for me was the over the top action and shocking violence. The movie received a PG rating, and it was clearly marketed to kids. But I’m not sure I’d take young ones to this movie. The violence in this film, while very mild for adults, seems like too much for younger kids that probably haven’t seen a group of soldiers open fire on the blonds. Yes, you’d be surprised at what was depicted in this children’s film. Have we become that desensitized to violence? I’m not sure about you, but I feel like this film shouldn’t be seen by anyone under the age of 8. You wouldn’t expect this from Disney. But please, if you take anything away from this review, please take this: The “Bruckheimer-esque” action and shocking violence makes this a film that borders on PG-13 action and violence. Consider that before you take your Kindergartner to this one.
But perhaps the worst thing about this film is that it is filled with absolutely useless and random moments, almost as if the writers (Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback) were being lazy. Maybe they thought, “Hey, it’s only a kids movie. Just put in a dog, some flashy F/X and a couple of sight gags, and they’ll love it! Kids are so dumb!” Let me give you some relatively spoiler free examples: Johnson’s character, Jack Bruno, was a cab driver in the movie. It was established that before he was a cab driver, he offered his services to a shady underworld crime boss type named “Mr Wolf.” But none of this seems to have much to do with the plot of the film. I really don’t understand why they would include that. Another perfect example is the aforementioned dog. Early on, the kids befriend a dog. That’s great, kids love dogs, could be an interesting plot point. Maybe the dog has some sort or special importance in the film’s plot? No, none of that; the dog seemingly disappears from that point on until the very end of the film, where it makes a very brief appearance. Why? Why even introduce the dog? Also, in the “race” to the mountain, there is an alien assassin chasing them! But this plot point doesn’t really tie in to the main plot and doesn’t appear to have much significance in the film at all. The film was riddled with situations just like this, where something potentially interesting is introduced but never fully explored.
There could’ve been so much more to this film. Instead of this being unique and interesting, it was flat, boring and un-inspired. It basically follows the same, “family friendly action film” outline: Generic action, some flashy F/X, cliche “action film dialogue”, and no personality or heart. This is a Disney film! Aren’t they supposed to have personality and heart?!? In the end, Race to Witch Mountain may be a film that your kids (age 8 and up) will enjoy, but you shouldn’t plan on enjoying it with them. Unless, of course, you like generic and boring, cliche filled films. The movie fails to capitalize on anything. It would’ve been easy to make this film something special; the rare remake that pays homage to the original and leaves you feeling good. Instead, it leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth. If your kids want to see this film, make sure you bring a pillow, cause it will put you to sleep.