Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Everett Scott, Chris Marquette, Billy Brown, Garry Marshall
Matt Lopez (and story), Mark Bomback, Alexander Key (book, "Escape to Witch Mountain")
The Race Is On.
Fasten your seatbelts for the thrill ride of your life in Disney's fun family action-adventure - Race to Witch Mountain, starring Dwayne Johnson. Jack Bruno (Johnson), a Las Vegas cabdriver struggling to stay on the right path, gets an out-of-this-world incentive when two aliens, disguised as teenagers, suddenly appear in his taxi. In a race against government agents, an alien hunter and time itself, Jack must help the children recover their lost spaceship so they can return home and save their planet and ours. Breathtaking chases, close calls and special effects make this an action-adventure the whole family will enjoy.
$24.402 million on 3187 screens.
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 99 min.
Release Date: 8/4/2009
• “Which Mountain?” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Bonus DVD
• Digital Copy
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
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Race To Witch Mountain [Blu-Ray] (2009)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 24, 2009)
Some remakes offer faithful adaptations of the original flicks – and then there’s 2009’s Race to Witch Mountain. How loose is this reworking of 1975’s Escape to Witch Mountain? Looser than a pair of 52 waist jeans on Paris Hilton; the two films share general similarities but don’t remotely feel alike.
In Race, a pair of teen aliens named Seth (Alexander Ludwig) and Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) come to Earth to retrieve a device crucial to the survival of their home planet. They crash and need an alternate method of transportation to get them to their goal. This lands them with Las Vegas cabbie Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson). The trio embarks on an adventure to get the essential gizmo and send the kids home, a quest made more difficult due to pursuers both human and extraterrestrial.
As I noted at the start, Race and Escape boast few similarities. Both include siblings with special powers, though Escape’s Tony and Tia were notably younger than Seth and Sara. In addition, both pairs of kids were aliens with psychokinetic powers, and both sets of youngsters need to get to a place called Witch Mountain.
Thus ends the similarities, which is fine with me. Indeed, the fact that Race doesn’t attempt to offer a literal remake of Escape should probably be a good thing. I wasn’t wild about the original, and many aspects of its story probably wouldn’t age well. An update sounds like a good idea.
“Sounds like” being the operative phrase, for in reality, Race turns into a massive turkey. As I mentioned when I reviewed it, I saw Escape as a kid, but I don’t bear fond childhood memories of it. Indeed, I barely remember it at all, so it’s not like I feel any need to defend a precious icon from the cruel onslaught on modern Hollywood. I was all for a remake, as I thought a new flick might be more interesting than the original.
I was wrong. While Escape provides minor pleasures, at least it does have some interesting elements. I wish I could say the same for Race, but I find it tough to think of anything positive to say about it. Okay – Carla Gugino looks hot.
And that’s it for the laudatory part of this review! Straight from the Michael Bay school of filmmaking, Race suffers from an absurd sense of urgency. From start to finish, every shot comes with rapid-fire cutting and pulsing music; the flick never gives you a second to take a breath, as even the most simple scenes come packed with attempted drama.
Perversely, this robs the actual action sequences of any life. When every sequence attempts to feel climactic, none of them achieve that goal. In addition, many of these scenes just seem silly. For instance, a simple character chat between Jack and UFO expert Dr. Alex Friedman (Gugino) becomes tough to watch due to these techniques. When the camera cuts every 1.5 seconds and we get stuck with strident score, how can we pay attention to the basics of the scene? We can’t, and the cumulative effect becomes that the movie grates on us and causes headaches.
Perhaps director Andy Fickman felt a need to distract us from the movie’s incessant onslaught of illogical moments. Yes, I realize that Race is a science-fiction movie meant for kids, but that doesn’t need it must be idiotic. Strange choices abound. When the kids and Jack try to escape a restaurant surrounded by gun-toting feds, their waitress (Escape’s Kim Richards in a cameo) shows them a secret exit. They hit a snag, though, because the door is locked from the outside.
Huh? Why would a restaurant have a door of any sort that keeps inhabitants inside while it allows potential robbers free access? Because it allows us to see the kids’ powers. There’s no actual logic; it’s just an artificial barrier to allow for some effects.
Speaking of those powers, we occasionally see the exceptional abilities possessed by Seth and Sara, but they don’t use these skills all that often. Given the nearly constant set of traps in which they find themselves, why not utilize these nearly god-like powers more often?
Because then the movie wouldn’t be as “exciting”, of course, but the lack of logic still irritates. It wouldn’t take much to offer an explanation for the sporadic manner in which S&S use their skills; just tell us that they need time to regenerate their abilities and we’re set. The fact no such information appears just makes it befuddling that they do so little so much of the time.
I could go on about how many plot flaws and leaps of logic occur, but I need to hit the sack in six hours; if I keep going, I’ll be up past bedtime. I might better forgive these issues if the movie offered any fun, but it’s never more than a superficial imitation of an action movie. I referred to the Michael Bay school earlier, but I can’t imagine Bay would make a movie quite so lifeless and generic. Even the disappointing Tranformers included some fun, but excitement remains absent here.
Even worse, Race totally wastes Johnson. Formerly “The Rock”, I’ve come to really like Johnson over the last few years, as he’s proven to be a solid actor. Unfortunately, he seems at sea here. He’s never quite sure whether to play comedy, drama or action, so he just appears stuck in some netherworld that doesn’t connect well with any of those choices. Frankly, he looks like he’s on autopilot, and I can’t blame him. If I ended up in such a bad movie, I’d mentally check out as well.
When I went into Race, I can’t say I expected anything great. However, I did hope for a fun flick that would improve on its source material. Alas, I ended up with a muddled mess of a moronic movie. Loud, stupidly, and seemingly endless, Race is a sorry excuse for “family entertainment”.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A-/ Bonus C
Race to Witch Mountain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie boasted an excellent transfer.
At all times, sharpness excelled. Even in the widest shots, the image remained tight and concise; nary a hint of softness ever interfered with this accurate presentation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also stayed away from this clean, fresh image.
In terms of colors, the movie went with a pretty bright, peppy palette. Of course, the fact much of the film took place in Las Vegas made these visual choices logical. The hues looked lively and full throughout the flick. Blacks appeared deep and dense, while shadows demonstrated nice clarity and delineation. All in all, I felt very impressed by the visuals.
While not quite as stunning, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Race fared well. With a whole bunch of action sequences throughout the story, the soundfield offered many opportunities to shine, and it often did so. Cars, spacecraft, gunfire, and general mayhem rocked all around the room and made the material engaging across all five channels. Music featured good stereo presence as well, but the effects dominated and turned this into an involving piece.
I always felt audio quality satisfied. Speech was crisp and distinctive, while music seemed full and robust. As expected, the effects were the most dynamic aspect of the track, as they sounded lively and impactful. Bass response appeared tight and deep. The audio worked well.
Only a few extras flesh out the set. We get eight Deleted Scenes; including introductions from director Andy Fickman, these fill a total of 23 minutes, 21 seconds. We find “Extended Opening Ray’s” (1:17), “Extended Ray’s Telekinesis” (3:15), “Jack Beats Up Zacha” (1:39), “Tina Meets Siphon” (2:15), “Sara Foils Security Fence” (1:41), “Alex Foils Guard” (1:27), “Extended Goodbye Scene” (5:20) and “Original Tag” (5:47). Most of these consist of minor additions to existing sequences, so don’t expect much new. The “Tag” is probably the most interesting of the bunch, though it would’ve ended the flick on a darker note.
Fickman’s intros offer satisfying information. He tells us a little about the scenes and lets us know why he cut them. Fickman proves effective in his quick comments.
Next we find a reel of Bloopers. These last three minutes, 37 seconds and presents the standard collection of silliness and mistakes. A few slightly amusing improv lines appear, but mostly this is the usual goofiness.
For a comparison of Race to the 1970s Witch Mountain flicks, we go to Which Mountain?. This runs eight minutes, 20 seconds, and includes notes from Fickman. He details trivia details found in the movie; some of these show connections to the 1970s flicks, though some simply tell us of cast cameos. Nonetheless, we learn about some hidden material in this reasonably fun piece.
A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Princess and the Frog, Hannah Montana: The Motion Picture, Blu-ray Disc and Disney Movie Rewards. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Ponyo, Earth, Up, Santa Buddies, Disney Parks and Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. No trailer for Race shows up here.
For viewers who might want to go Blu-ray in the future but remain SD, this set includes a DVD Version of the film. It presents the feature film along with the same deleted scenes and bloopers found on the Blu-ray. It also throws in a promo for Blu-ray from some Disney Channel actors.
Finally, a second disc provides a Digital Copy of Race. This allows you to easily transfer the flick to your computer or portable viewing device. It doesn’t do anything for me, but your mileage may vary, as they say.
While the original 1970s movies weren’t classics, they look brilliant compared to the lamentable Race to Witch Mountain. Essentially little more than a loud, faceless piece of action nonsense, the film lacks personality or entertainment value. The Blu-ray provides excellent picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. I love the presentation of the flick, but I don’t care for Race at all.
Viewer Film Ratings: 1.6 Stars|| Number of Votes: 5|