If Rocky and Rambo can have decades-later sequels, why not the Witch Mountain series? But is this really a sequel? Or is it an attempt to start an old Disney franchise over again? My thoughts lean toward the latter view.
Since the story takes place over 30 years after Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Return from Witch Mountain (1978), it’s hard to really see this as a direct sequel to the first two films. The main reason being: this one is less about the kids and more about Dwayne Johnson’s (formerly The Rock) character. He’s a down-on-his luck taxi driver who become the chauffer/hero of the two kids on their way to the mysterious Witch Mountain.
And that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, this movie is an enjoyable movie that has a lot going for it. But there could have been more. There is plenty of humor in Johnson’s expressions and asides, which helps move the story through slow spots. Johnson’s a likable guy and has proven himself as an action hero in films like The Rundown and Walking Tall, so it’s no surprise his talents in this area are utilized here.
The two kids (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) are better actors than their Witch Mountain predecessors, but their dialogue becomes annoying after a while. Apparently aliens speak in monotone voices and say a person’s first a last name each time they address them. Johnson’s presence is a godsend when there needs to be a break from the kids.
Of course, with any alien-themed movie, there are the obligatory FBI/NSA/SETI guys hell-bent on finding and dissecting the aliens. This only adds to the problems our two young aliens face since an alien bounty hunter is also out to destroy them. The lead agent, Henry Burke, will look familiar to those who have seen There Will Be Blood.
Throw in the flashy world of Las Vegas, the sexy Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman, some decent sci-fi effects, and a UFO convention, and you have a decent sci-fi movie from Disney. Now we’ll see if they can make Tron 2 work!
I recommend the movie for its escapist quality. It’s not a groundbreaking film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a decent popcorn flick on a boring weekend afternoon.
Race to Witch Mountain receives an A-. You can skip the original two and still enjoy this one.
HOMAGE ALERT: For those who have seen the first two, look for elements from those films that pop-up every once in a while in this movie. There are also cameos by the original two kids (Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann; now adults, of course). See if you can spot them.