The clue is in the title: Race To Witch Mountain. Not Escape, like the 1975 original, or Return, like the 1978 sequel, but Race.
It’s a verb that sets the stage for down-and-out Vegas cabbie Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) to help teen aliens Sara and Seth (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) head into the desert in search of their spaceship, while evil FBI agent Henry Burke (Ciaran Hinds) and his posse of simpleminded officers follow in hot pursuit.
Which is all very well if you’re looking for another fast and furious action flick, but Witch Mountain could have been so much more. Where it shines is when our intergalactic siblings show off their out-of-this-world skills, like the scene where Seth melts into the back seat of the taxi to bodyslam a following SUV.
The rest of the time a Yellow Cab is seen hobbling through numerous improbable car chases, all far-too-generic territory for a movie that promises aliens and UFOs. And even when it bothers to pander to its core geek audience, it serves up generic sci-fi clichés: Sara and Seth’s ship is an off-the-peg flying saucer; the big bad government wants to ‘probe’ the ETs; an alien underground lab is filled with slimy ‘pods’.
Still, Race To Witch Mountain isn’t without its moments. Johnson is really getting into his groove as an actor, not to mention developing some fine comedic chops, while movie veteran Garry Marshall and former pothead Cheech Marin also bring genuinely quirky comic relief in supporting roles. But there’s neither enough remarkable set-pieces for action fans or hi-tech surprises for sci-fi lovers to really make this a Mountain worth exploring.
Race To Witch Mountain promises sci-fi but ultimately delivers lo-fi. Its themes are predictable and its look generic: this is one Race you may want to sit out.