Race to Witch Mountain (2009)
Release Date: March 13th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Andy Fickman Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Ciaran Hinds, AnnaSophia Robb, Carla Gugino, Garry Marshall
on’t go into the pimped-out fridge, Jack.” Numerous plot holes, mundane stock villains, cheesy dialogue, and heavily plagiarized designs can’t keep Dwayne (no longer “The Rock”) Johnson from bubbling over with enthusiasm in his role as a cab driver escorting aliens. Fortunately, a consistent suspense will entertain those unfamiliar with the plentiful quantity of superior attempts at similar stories. Like a Disney-fied cross between “Men in Black” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” complete with its own Terminator, “Race to Witch Mountain” doesn’t surpass in quality any of those films individually – but it is better than the last action comedy involving a taxi.
Former Vegas crime boss wheelman, and current down-on-his-luck cab driver, Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) winds up on the adventure of a lifetime when he unwittingly agrees to transport two young kids, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), to a remote location in the Nevada desert. Upon discovering the children’s true identity, and their monumental mission to save Earth, Jack enlists the aid of UFO specialist Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) to help the kids reach their final destination of Witch Mountain, a top secret government testing facility. Promising to help Sara and Seth accomplish their quest, Jack and Alex must fend off the forces of evil, including a ruthless government agent (Ciaran Hinds) and a murderous juggernaut cyborg, intent on eliminating anyone who stands in its way.
Aside from the previous comparisons to better science-fiction films, some odd parallels to “Aliens” are present, which couldn’t go without mentioning: partners Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, who worked on the creature effects for “Aliens,” also worked on this film; the villains in both films are named Burke; and both of the climactic showdowns with the enemy creatures take place in an airlock. Further familiarities are more negative: the Siphon design harkens back to “Resident Evil’s” Nemesis, with the stiff movement of a T-800 exoskeleton, and the typical black-clothed government agents with sunglasses and earpieces are straight from “The Matrix.” Also included, for further evidence of unoriginality, are silly alien acronyms, surveillance equipment and connections galore, and menacing black SUVs. The whole design of the film is little more than one copycat idea after another.
Ciaran Hinds is a natural villain, although his character is crafted like John Turturro’s Agent Simmons from “Transformers.” The government is expectedly inept and an easy antagonist (they merely want to torture innocent alien children). And a comic relief associate exists for absolutely no reason (everyone in the movie provides plenty of their own laughs). The faults are exceedingly apparent, but at least plenty of action, nonstop adventure, and decent humor are never far away. That is, until about the halfway point, in which unexpected conveniences become far too obvious. Disney seems willing to forego realism or even common sense to snag a PG rating. When a train participates in a head-on collision with a UFO, resulting in a tremendous explosion and massive destruction, word reaches the agents that the engineer survived; it’s just too much to ask that the audience doesn’t realize the only purpose for that line of trivial dialogue. The other consistent points of utter ridiculousness (Johnson and Gugino are not only practically invincible, they can outwit and outgun an entire military base of soldiers and scientists) are clearly beyond the realm of worldly explanation.
– The Massie Twins