out of Five
Running time: 98
Watchable action-adventure that scrapes by on Johnson's charm and Robb's wide-eyed performance, but it's badly let down by some dreadful special effects and a disappointing script.
What's it all about?
Based on the book Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key (which spawned both Disney's successful 1975 movie of the same name and the 1978 sequel, Return to Witch Mountain), Race to Witch Mountain stars Dwayne Johnson as Vegas taxi driver Jack Bruno, who picks up blonde, wide-eyed teenagers Seth (Alexander Ludwig) and Sarah (AnnaSophia Robb) and quickly finds himself targeted by sinister government agent Henry Burke (Ciaran Hinds). When the kids crash Burke's car using supernatural powers, Jack learns that they're actually aliens and they're desperately searching for a mysterious object that will rejuvenate life on their dying planet and prevent an invasion of Earth.
Johnson is an extremely likeable actor with charisma to burn and it's largely down to him and AnnaSophia's amusingly mannered performance that the film stays watchable throughout. There's also strong support from Ludwig and from the lovely Carla Gugino as alien expert Dr Alex Friedman, who Jack and the kids turn to for help.
In addition, Hinds delivers some quality glowering while there are cameos from Garry Marshall (as a rival professor), Cheech Marin (as a mechanic) and the film's original child stars Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards as, respectively, a sheriff and a waitress. There's even an entirely gratuitous dog, if you like that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, while director Andy Fickman keeps things moving at a pace appropriate to the title, the film is let down by some extremely shoddy special effects, coupled with some over-enthusiastic editing that ensures that you can't tell what's going on during the action scenes. Similarly, the script is pedestrian at best, failing to deliver any emotional moments and leaving the actors with little of interest to do other than race from A to B.
The cast of Race to Witch Mountain do their best, but they're let down by some poor effects and a lazy script. For undemanding children only.
Race to Witch Mountain (PG)