Race to Witch Mountain (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] (2009)

Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Everett Scott
Format: Live Action, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 3
Walt Disney Home Video
DVD Release Date: August 3, 2009
Run Time: 99 minutes



There's something inherently distasteful about product as overtly corporate as Race to Witch Mountain. Everything about it smacks of bloodless calculation; no shred of imagination or originality escapes. From its base concept yanked wholesale from a less-than-stellar original to the deathly dull effects made all the more boring by their resolute competence, it betrays its factory-produced origins utterly and completely.

The producers assembled it solely with the intention of attracting the broadest possible demographic, twisting the story and characters to fit into its preconceived sausage packaging. The fact that it still proved to be a modest success makes its miserable quality all the more depressing.

If the film has anything close to a trump card, it would be star Dwayne Johnson, who remains an engaging presence despite the mediocrity surrounding him. He plays an amiable Las Vegas cabbie who inadvertently gives a lift to a pair of kids from outer space. Said kids are fleeing sinister government forces, who have housed their ship in the titular mountain base. They're also being pursued by an alien bounty hunter for some reason, which mainly justifies a lot of gratuitous effects shots and lets The Rock look put upon when things start blowing up around him.

Frankly, if the director were a real bungler, the whole thing might be more interesting. Inept movies constitute a special joy all their own, if only to let people point and laugh at them. Witch Mountain is just… dull: workmanlike in its presentation, dutifully committed to formula, and too timid even to screw up once in awhile, if only to show us something different.

Granted, its stalwart adherence to the game plan may not matter to its chosen audience. The action is colorful but harmless and while the two kids (played by AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) are limited to robotic exposition, they retain enough appeal for undemanding tots to identify with them. Johnson proves a good sport, as always, and his onscreen charisma once again suggests that he belongs in better projects.

But for those of us who have graduated the fifth grade, Witch Mountain proves too lazy to justify any level of respect. Its complications, its villains, even its throwaway references to the first film, all smack of tired cliché borne by countless cinematic mediocrities since time immemorial. Family films seem particularly vulnerable to such tactics; parents apparently don't care if a movie is soulless and creatively bankrupt, just so long as it's bright and upbeat. They need to demand better, especially from a company as concerned with "wholesome" filmmaking as Disney. Avoiding this brazenly calculated cash grab is good way to start.

THE DISCS: For a Blu-Ray release, the disc is surprisingly watered down. Disney has adopted an admirable policy of including DVD versions of their film in the Blu-Ray packages, letting people build up a collection before they actually buy the player. Witch Mountain also includes a digital download copy for computers/iPhones, some deleted scenes and a sparse documentary covering the various in-jokes in the film. Beyond that, the cupboard is empty… suggesting that even the people in charge struggled to generate sufficient enthusiasm for the project.

WORTH IT? Not unless you're desperate. Witch Mountain satisfies the basic necessities for family-friendly entertainment, but with superior kids' films like Coraline sitting right next to it on the shelf, it's not like you don't have better options.

RECOMMENDATION: I suppose in twenty years, today's kids who watch it will feel the same sense of forgiving nostalgia that Gen Xers apply towards the original Witch Mountain. Of course by then, Blu-Ray will be hopelessly obsolete and they'll just download the films directly into our brains, so there's no reason to invest in such backwater technology now.

- Rob Vaux



blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).