What has happened to our society that the best ideas we can come up with are ones that have already been done? Instead of writing new screenplays, movies are being remade. It’s not a new concept by any means. Just about every Disney film is based on a story that had previously existed, but Disney films usually find a way to take a story and give it character, humor, and a spin that we’ve never seen before. But with Race to Witch Mountain, which Disney doesn’t claim is “technically” a remake, you can’t help but think what has happened to their originality?
Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, The Game Plan) has his life turned upside down when two alien siblings, Seth (Alexander Ludwig, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising) and Sara (AnnaSophia Robb, Jumper, Bridge to Terabithia) show up in his backseat. They tell him that they need to get back to their spaceship, and they discover that it is being held by the government in Witch Mountain. Enlisting the help of Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino, Watchmen, the Spy Kids trilogy) who is speaking at a sci-fi convention in town and who just so happens to be an expert on extraterrestrials, the gang has to race to Witch Mountain with the government, a mob boss (Jack Bruno’s previous employer), and alien assassins called “Siphons”.
The race itself is fun and action packed, it’s in between chases that the film slows to a screeching halt. Here is where we get to see just how bad our actors are. AnnaSophia Robb, who has been charming in several other films, takes her alien behavior a bit too far and just comes across as robotic. From the tone in Johnson’s voice, it’s clear that most of his dialogue is intended to be funny, but he just seems bitter about being there. Not really the quality you want in a man who is taking care of children in distress. Alexander Ludwig is fine, but really doesn’t contribute much other than to do as his sister asks and perform his cool tricks.
The special effects are spectacular, and it’s fun to see all the car chases and the cool things that the kids can do. But when the rest of the movie fails to deliver, it’s hard to get excited about it. Another mindless action film, only this time for kids. Cheech Marin and Garry Marshall have supporting roles in the film, but for what? They’re given absolutely nothing to do. Carla Gugino, while I admire her for her acting, for the diversity of the roles she chooses, and for her ageless beauty, is so much better than this film.
There was no need to remake, reboot, or reinvent the “Witch Mountain” series. Especially like this, with bad character development, poor acting, and none of that Disney magic that they claim to have. Director Andrew Fickman, who also directed Dwayne Johnson in The Game Plan, as shown in the extras on the disc, has a great love for the original material. So why didn’t he strive for his film to be better? If all you’re looking for is more of that mindless entertainment that is already so plentiful, then Race to Witch Mountain is great. Just don’t go expecting much else.
This Blu-Ray release comes with three copies of the film: A Blu-Ray, a DVD, and a digital copy. The Blu-Ray is presented in a HD 2.40:1 aspect ratio with HD digital surround sound. As I said before, the special effects are of high quality and are enhanced by the Blu-Ray picture. The DVD is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
On the Blu-Ray disc:
Deleted Scenes – With optional intro by Director Andy Fickman – There are 9 total Deleted and Extended Scenes, the only one that was cute was a short one with Carla Gugino playing Southern damsel in distress to distract a guard. Total run time for all nine – 23:21
Bloopers – Standard Blooper Reel. There’s a cute little running gag with the cab door next to AnnaSophia Robb that never quite closes. 3:37
Backstage Disney: Which Mountain? – This interesting little featurette is hosted by Director Andy Fickman and shows all the references made to the original films and to other Disney films. If you’re going to watch any of the extras on the disc, this is the one to watch. 8:20
Disney File: Learn How To Take Your Favorite Movies On The Go – This is a how to about taking advantage of the Digital Copy included with the Blu-Ray release. 1:04
Sneak Peeks – Ponyo, Earth, Up, Santa Buddies, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Disney Parks, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Diamond Edition, The Princess and the Frog, Hannah Montana: The Movie, Disney Movie Rewards
On the DVD disc:
Deleted Scenes – the same
Bloopers – the same
Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-Ray is Suite! – This is a commercial for Blu-Ray discs starring Zac and Cody themselves. Seriously? So not only are Zac and Cody promoting ugly hair, but now they’re hawking Blu-Ray players to kids? In the commercial, they say that Blu-Ray discs have 5 times the capacity of DVD’s. So why doesn’t THIS Blu-Ray have more extras?
Race to Witch Mountain was a very disappointing film. Yes it is mindless action and will probably keep the kids entertained for an hour and a half, but shouldn’t we start expecting a little more? Disney can do so much better than this. The extras are slim as well, making this Blu-Ray release just as exciting and necessary as the film that is on it.
Walt Disney Video presents Race to Witch Mountain. Directed by: Andy Fickman. Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig. Written by: Alexander Key, Mark Bomback, Matt Lopez. Running time: 98 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: August 4, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Carla Gugino, cheech marin, dwayne johnson, Garry Marshall, The Rock