2009 Certificate: pg

Synopsis

ETs everywhere, phone home now and spread the word that Race to Witch Mountain is perfect fantasy for all the family! Dwayne Johnson (The Rock of old) and Carla Gugino take the leads in this zesty remake of the 1975 Disney classic, Escape to Witch Mountain. Johnson is a Las Vegas cabbie who unwittingly picks up two kids who turn out to be extra-terrestrials on a mission to Earth, and now looking to get home. As stern-faced men in black close in, the cab driver enlists the help of Gugino's UFO expert to help them get to the hunk of rock. Action-packed and big hearted, race to see it.

Director

  • Andy Fickman

Cast

  • Dwayne Johnson

  • Carla Gugino

  • Ciarán Hinds

  • Annasophia Robb

  • Alexander Ludwig

  • Cheech Marin

Review

Escape to Witch Mountain has been remade once before in 1995 as a cheapo TV movie, but this second remake is far more successful.

Utilising Johnson's effortless screen charisma and Gugino's charm, plus adorably earnest, otherworldly performances from Ludwig and Robb as alien brother and sister Seth and Sara, and a lightspeed paced race against time plot, Race to Witch Mountain is enormous fun.

Cynical cabbie Jack Bruno discovers himself protector of two young aliens, who are being pursued by hostile government agents and intergalactic assassin the Siphon. They must retrieve their crashed UFO from Witch Mountain or else the fate of their world and Earth hangs in doubt. Alex, a UFO expert, completes the family unit and, plotting economically dealt with, off they shoot.

Resisting the urge to pile on nods to other sci-fi classics or give the otherworldly brother and sister hip dialogue, director Fickman plays his movie admirably straight. Even the superpowers - matter manipulation and telekinesis/telepathy respectively - have a nice retro feel.

He also keeps the focus on character despite the car chases, UFO chases, alien vs. human fisticuffs, and a fan convention shoot-out, so by the time Jack, Alex, Seth and Sara join hands in defiance of gun-toting soldiers it's genuinely affecting.

The script neatly slips in eco and science over military might messages - Ciarin Hinds' glowering government agent hellbent of capturing the kids invokes the PATRIOT Act to snatch the illegal aliens - without sounding preachy.

And the energy on display makes the plotholes - why do the superpowered kids need Jack, how does their underground garden actually grow, what do the kids really look like - if not irrelevant then forgivable.

Old-fashioned in the best sense of the word, Race to Witch Mountain is Galaxy Quest meets Spy Kids and the year's first big surprise.

Rob Daniel