Two strange, paranormal siblings, Sara and Seth, are helped by a down-on-his luck cab driver, Jack Bruno, and a discredited scientist, Dr. Alex Friedman, in eluding a sinister government agent, Burke, and getting to their spaceship in order to return to their home planet with vital information before their people destroy Earth. There’s the entire plot right there. Race to Witch Mountain is one of those cases where the trailers are much better than the actual film. That’s not to say this is a horrible film. In fact, this film in unabashedly and unapologetically one hundred percent a children’s film. Unfortunately, it’s not a very smart one. Most of the characters are one-note, the plot rarely let’s logic and believability stand in it’s way of predictably meandering along between action sequences and there isn’t any sort of theme or lesson to be learned in site. Then again, my four year old loved it, so there you go.
Dwayne Johnson is criminally underused in this film. There is some decent character development for his character early on, including some possibly unneeded angst. However, once he encounters the two kids that all essentially gets pushed to the side in favor of him spending the rest of the film uttering one snappy one-liner after another. It’s almost as if the producers just decided to throw every conceivable catch-phrase they could think of out at the audience in the hopes that one or two might stick. There’s even a fairly significant sub-plot involving a Vegas crime boss that is set up at the beginning, resurfaces about two-thirds of the way through and then completely disappears, unresolved. Carla Gugino does an okay, if sometimes over-exuberant, job as a discredited astrophysicist. Then we get to the two siblings, as played by AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig. The two are either doing a great job of playing other-worldly aliens or they are doing a bad job acting. The problem is, it’s very difficult to tell which one. Garry Marshall plays a conspiracy nut and is one of the shining moments, as is a decent cameo by the the actors who starred in the original Witch films, Kim Richards and Ike (now spelled Iake) Eisenmann. Add in Ciarán Hinds, who looks like he’d rather be somewhere else, as the bad guy. Plus, there’s the obligatory Cheech Marin kids movie cameo.
Maybe my fondness for the originals has colored my view of this remake, I freely admit that. I still don’t understand some of the changes they made, though, like the names of the kids and removing the entire plot concerning Lucas Deranian fro mthe original novel and Aristotle Bolt from the first film. There was a nice shout out in referencing an alien suit as made from “deranian” metal, but not enough to make up for dumbing down the story considerably. All in all, Race To Witch Mountain just seems like and odd mash-up of the novel and the 1975 film with any resulting substance clinically removed. I think your young children will enjoy the spectacle, but not in any memorable way. Wait for the DVD or, better yet, get the original film.