'Reimagining' of Disney's classic 1975 action favourite.
US. 2009. 98mins. Director Andy Fickman Production companies Gunn Films, Walt Disney Pictures International distribution Walt Disney Studios Producer Andrew Gunn Screenplay Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback, from the book by Alexander Key Cinematography Greg Gardiner Main cast Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Everett Scott
Race To Witch Mountain is a so-so kids movie which should attract a mid-size family audience and enduring popularity as a home entertainment title. Made on a modest budget - with endearingly shabby special effects - as a vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, it should deliver some tidy profits to the studio, which continues its successful programme of mining its library for remakes (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap, Flubber, That Darn Cat).
The plot of Alexander Key's original 1968 (pseudo-Christian) sci-fi novel and that of the 1975 film have been abandoned here in favour of a Las Vegas-set reworking from Matt Lopez, who scripted Disney's Christmas hit Bedtime Stories.
The two children, Tony and Tia, are now Sara (Robb) and Seth (Ludwig) and instead of being orphans who find out they are aliens, they are fully self-aware extraterrestrials who have crash-landed in the Nevada desert and are desperate to get back their ship from the mysterious government agency which has taken possession of it.
We first meet Johnson's ex-con Jack Bruno trying to go straight as a taxi driver in Vegas, driving all manner of crazies and nerds (academic Carla Gugino among them) to a UFO convention.
When the two children/aliens get into his cab, they produce a wad of cash and demand to be driven deep into the desert, pursued by dastardly government agent Burke (Hinds) as well as by Siphon, a deadly soldier from the children's planet who is out to kill them.
In the tradition of Disney live-action films from the 1970s, it is all very low-rent and Johnson is a perfect candidate to lead the B-grade proceedings. An unlikely star of limited acting talent, the former wrestler (aka The Rock) carries the film along with an easygoing charm, which at worst is inoffensive.
Low rent but high profit margin.