‘Witch Mountain’ a Treat for Kids, Snooze-fest for Adults

Race to Witch Mountain is the latest project from Walt Disney Studios to hold kids and tweens over until next month when the long-awaited Hannah Montana movie is released in theaters nationwide. It stars Dwayne (no longer 'The Rock' as of this flick) Johnson as Jack Bruno, a Las Vegas cab driver who persuades a UFO expert to help him deliver two "not-from-your-planet" kids to find their stolen spaceship. Witch Mountain is a remake of the 1975 Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain, which was so successful that the company decided to turn it into a trilogy. Dwayne Johnson, the kid-savvy actor who recently decided to take his wrestler nickname off of his résumé, has also starred in a recent Disney box-office smash hit-2007's The Game Plan. To promote that movie, he appeared on tween-based Disney Channel sitcoms: Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place. He's also set to host the 2009
Kid's Choice Awards on Nickelodeon this month. It's taken him 9 movies and countless WWE Friday Night Smackdown's, but it looks like Mr. Rock has finally found his comfort zone. Witch Mountain didn't give him much of a chance to show what he's made of, however. The script got him to beat up a few bad guys, but no scenes to explore his other talents. A bit of a love story, but not one as strong as to make the audience care where it goes.

One of Johnson's co-stars, Carla Gugino (who played Alex Friedman), has been in many movies throughout her career, but nothing really like this. Gugino, who's probably most known for playing Lucille in the Frank Miller classic Sin City, has most been in action/horror films, not kid's (excluding the Spy Kids series). So far this year, she's been in The Unborn and Watchmen. She's an all right actress, not great. Not well-known either. But the role didn't cry out for anyone in particular (or good, for that matter), so I'm just going to leave her be. From an almost-rape victim to a Comic-Con scientist, she's done it all.

The kids. The aliens! Whatever you want to call them, were played by AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig. Robb is probably the most well know, being in other huge Hollywood successes. She's a phenomenal child actor with tons of potential bottled up in that only-15 year old body. Ludwig is another story. He was in The Seeker: the Dark is Rising and Sandlot 3. He hardly complimented Sophia Robb's spectacular performance, and pretty much made me doubt aliens' existence even more. "They're only kids!" "They're only kids!" Yes, but pretty damn good ones.

The story is fun for kids. A thrill-filled witch-hunt for a stolen spaceship with lots of explosions along the way. A good old-fashioned sci-fi for adults, but Race to Witch Mountain was targeted to be enjoyable for children. Adults will enjoy most of it, but I was yawning at about 50 minutes in. Fans of the original will be pleasantly disappointed, just for the fact that people are still around to remember the old drive-in flick. Director Andy Fickman (The Game Plan, She's the Man) captured the pure creepiness and suspense that the plot called for, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he included a series of hatchways and secret, evil lairs in this supernatural matinee. The action scenes are kid-based, and if it wasn't for a little mouse named "Mickey", as Daniel Day-Lewis said "there will be blood". Would be blood. But that goes for a lot for a lot of Disney movies, too; Prince Caspian and The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe could have been a lot more violent if it wasn't for the "safety first!" motto that D.C constantly practices. The final scene was cut short due to the fact that it was for adolescent America, too. Good-bye's are short, farewells are quick, and it leaves you saying "What! What? Did we score?"

Race to Witch Mountain is a classic Disney sci-fi scenario, with both smart acting and not so smart acting. Perfect for a weekend afternoon movie with the kids, but that's about it. A fun remake, although it should have arrived earlier. Before we got sick of 'em.

3 ut of 5 burgers.

For a video review, click here.

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