The Austin Chronicle

Race to Witch Mountain

Rated PG, 99 min. Directed by Andy Fickman. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Ciarán Hinds, Garry Marshall.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 20, 2009

Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain, released in 1975, was one of the first films I saw at a drive-in theatre, and, like a lot of people my age (40 and holding), the film dwells in an especially saccharine, rose-tinted chamber of my heart, alongside similar live-action Mouseketeer fare such as The Cat From Outer Space and Candleshoe. Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann played the original alien kids on the run, shepherded to their rendezvous with the stars by Eddie Albert and his awesome (there's just no other word for it) green-pinstriped Winnebago, with villians Ray Milland and Donald Pleasence in hot pursuit. This third Witch Mountain outing (the second was 1978's Return From Witch Mountain, less fun but with a suck-mitigating Christopher Lee and Bette Davis) is essentially the same stop ’n’ go chase film as its predecessors, but all things considered, it's not half-bad. Dwayne "Don't Call Me the Rock" Johnson, who appears to be following Ice Cube's lead in his lateral career move from narcissistic, violent cartoon character to goofy, family-friendly cartoon character, is spot-on as Jack Bruno, a self-doubting former racer and current Vegas cabbie who, with an assist from discredited but still, like, totally hot astrophysicist Dr. Alex Friedman (Gugino) saves the planet and the tweenage ETs (Robb and Ludwig, dialogue-coached, it would seem, by Stephen Hawking). Edited with zero tolerance for boredom and featuring a typical Disney self-empowerment morality, this race is entertaining and patently inoffensive matinee fare for kids 12 and younger and their adult overlords. Fans of the original films will dig Richards and Eisenmann's cameo appearances, while fans of anal probes should react to former Austinite and Communion-taker Whitley Strieber's charming WTF? walk-on.

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