Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Race to Witch Mountain

"You know what aliens look like. They are like little green people with antennas, and say "Take me to your leader, Earthlings."

Written By: Matt Lopez & Mark Bomback

Directed By: Andy Fickman

Starring: Dwayne "not The Rock" Johnson, Carla Gugino, Anna Sophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig

Rating: 6/10

Disney has been churning out Witch Mountain movies for decades. I’m sure I’ve seen one at some stage of my life on a random, bored Sunday afternoon. Not so much an update of the franchise, this film continues along the same lines as the others. It is on the same level as the older movies, entertaining children’s nonsense which neither offends nor delights.

Dwayne Johnson plays disillusioned cabbie Jack Bruno. He lives a meagre existence in Las Vegas, on the run from gangsters who seen to be angry at him because he gave up NASCAR racing. He picks up a fare from two kids Sara and Seth, who pay in cash for a ride to the middle of the desert. Naturally this embroils Jack in a string of adventures. These kids are in fact aliens trying to find their spaceship and return home to convince their planet that Earth should not be destroyed. Evil G-man (Ciaran Hinds) wants to stop them from leaving and refuses to feel empathy for them, insisting that they are only children on the outside.

The action sequences are really good and they are pulled off rather classily. A harrowing train accident is particularly exciting, and kind of darker than what one usually expects from the House of Mouse. The child actors are very good and incite our sympathy. As usual, Dwayne Johnson displays a natural wit and charm that endears him to the audience and allows us to root for him. Hot off Watchmen, Carla Gugino plays a serious UFO expert, finding it hard to be taken seriously because of the crazies who seem to inhabit her field of expertise. She comes along to help the kids and have her work legitimised all in one fell swoop.

The problem with this movie is that is spends all of its time setting up characters’ backstories and setting up a love story and never follows through. I know, I know, it’s a kids movie and we shouldn’t get into structural problems, but it really does waste our time setting up Jack Bruno’s lack of accomplishment, despite great talent but by the end of the movie, nothing has changed. How very unsettling that the Disney machine seems to have a glitch in it.

Annoyingly underwritten subplots aside, I found this very entertaining and pretty likeable. The pacing never lets up and the set pieces are imaginative. It may be irritatingly cliche, but it is a load of fun and definitely worth an hour and a half of your children’s Saturday afternoon.

- Charlene Lydon

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