Disney has never been shy about remakes and sequels and just when you think they’re content coming up with new ideas ala Bedtime Stories, they go and revisit one of the classics with Race to Witch Mountain. Despite being named after a classic film and starring Disney’s favorite go-to-tough-guy-actor Dwayne Johnson, the film didn’t exactly bowl over audiences with its generic plot although it brought in a respectable amount worldwide (just a tad bit over $105 million).
Las Vegas taxi driver Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) sets off on the adventure of a lifetime when two mysterious teens ask him to drive them deep into the Nevada desert. Jack agrees to take siblings Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) to Witch Mountain, a shadowy government outpost devoted to studying inexplicable phenomena – including UFO sightings. But his young passengers are no ordinary teens. With a ruthless adversary on their trail, Sara and Seth display astonishing supernatural abilities and Jack becomes a reluctant hero as he helps them evade their pursuer. As Witch Mountain reveals its long hidden secrets, Jack discovers that his passengers are the only key to saving the world!
I’d never seen the original so I have no idea how much this compares to it, but as far as kids flicks go…it could definitely do worse. In fact I was pretty impressed by the film for the first half of it, which I’ll divulge on later, but overall it was a very strange experience. Just shy of 100 minutes long, the film never really feels like it does much with its plot and instead focuses its energy on just getting from point A to point B. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it makes for an easy story to swallow, but it also leaves you feeling empty at the end because there just isn’t anything to grasp onto.
What there is to take hold of is largely spent in the first half of the film. After a brief go-around with Johnson’s characters history and current living arrangements, the film gets underway and rarely stops for a breather for a good half hour. I was genuinely surprised by the adrenaline rush the film gave you, as I was quite tensed up…I can only imagine how little kids handle the constant chase, car crashes and explosions for the first half of the film. Not only surprised but also impressed—I rarely see adult films take this long to go for a breather, let alone a kid’s movie. Of course the downside to this is the film hits a brick wall and slows to a crawl after this, as we have to spend the time we wasted on the car chases to discuss the plot at hand.
So the film basically scarified occasional plot development for a big block of it, leaving us with an uneven feeling film; again, children’s film and all, but if I was a kid I’d grow pretty tired of this later half. The mean government agents eventually catch up and we actually finally start the “race” to Witch Mountain…which never really is much of a chase to begin with. The title is very misleading in that regard and, again never having seen the original, I thought this was actually a movie with horror elements not…alien ones. Darn deceptive titles…
In the end the film is a fairly enjoyable ride with some laughs from Johnson’s character as he takes in all of the alien elements, but that’s really the only enjoyable elements we get here. The alien kids themselves are relatively pleasant to watch in that they don’t really act like annoying teenagers, but every other character here just doesn’t make any kind of lasting impact for it to ever matter. Not really an annoying trait of the film either, as it’s so short that you don’t realize that the back story on the characters is never really given, aside from Johnson himself. Then again, this isn’t a character driven film…it’s merely driven by on screen events that take us from start to finish without any deviations.
Overall a film that’s worth a Rental, I suppose, but nothing more. I wish it had a bit more meat on its bones as I generally enjoy these type of Disney films, although not as of late I’m sad to say.
Deceptive title? Try deceptive packaging. Race to Witch Mountain arrives on Blu-ray in a double wide Elite case housing the three discs for the set. An embossed reflective foil slipcover is included, as well as inserts for the digital copy and an advertisement for the Blu-ray format in general. Disc art is a replication of the front cover (disc one), a grey washed text-only affair (disc two, DVD copy), and a whole mess of text on a gold background (disc three, Digital Copy). So yeah, you get three copies of the film here, although I won’t fault Disney for that – the DVD copy is a nice touch. Though why they couldn’t combine DVD and Digital Copy discs, I don’t know.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded 1080p 2.40:1 transfer that…well, it’s a modern film so it looks great. Plenty of high detail and grain on the transfer, although it’s not a visually impressive film as far as color palettes and textures go. The HUD for the space ship is pretty awesome to look at (and is the basis for the menu system for this release), but like the film itself the thrills come fast and then die off. Same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 transfer which booms, growls and shifts dust around for the first half of the film, goes quiet, and then wakes up again when the space ship sequence starts. It certainly engrosses you for that first half, however, with some decent surround work as well.
Extras? Well, this is a three-disc set so you can expect:
Deleted Scenes (23:21, SD) w/ Intro by Director Andy Rickman
Bloopers (3:37, SD)
Which Mountain (8:20, 1080p)
Yes…that really is all there is. The “Which Mountain?” is a Blu-ray exclusive which attempts to explain the “hidden references” to the original movie inside this one…although, again, not having seen the original I didn’t pick up on any of these until watching this extras. So at the very least I guess that was kind of nice…but still, not a huge selection of goodies to feast your eyes on. The Bloopers are entertaining at least, although hardly worth sitting around for.
Overall a disc and film definitely worthy of a Rental only. Don’t let the deceptively large and shiny packaging fool you—there isn’t much of anything worthwhile to see here.
Race to Witch Mountain is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.