Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why did I race to see Witch Mountain...?

The reason I rushed to see Race to Witch Mountain in its opening week is because I have very fond memories of the original Disney films from my childhood. 

I was hoping that this new installment would capture the same sense of mystery and excitement I felt for the first two movies, Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain (I've never seen the third movie, Beyond Witch Mountain). Unfortunately this remake raced by and left me feeling uninspired and wondering why they'd bothered.
Disney's Race to Witch Mountain billboard
Granted this is a kids movie after all, so maybe I'm being overly critical, but I felt there were no real surprises or much imagination in this rebooted version. In a world now familiar with super-powered folks in movies such as X-Men or TV shows like Heroes, I just thought the movie didn't add anything new to the genre.

As you should know by now I love anything vaguely sci-fi or about people with super powers, and even though I've not seen it in many years, I remember Escape to Witch Mountain (released in 1975), being quite exciting and scary to my young mind. 
Escape to Witch Mountain
The plot had an orphaned brother and sister (Tony and Tia) trying to escape from a scheming millionaire who wants to use they extraordinary talents for his own ends. They discover a hidden map and follow the trail, getting into all kinds of adventures along the way, which leads to Witch Mountain, where it's revealed they are not simply children with supernatural powers, but crash landed amnesiac aliens from another world.

In the new Race to Witch Mountain the children know exactly who they are and they are trying to save the Earth from invasion by their own alien race, whose military factions want to colonise our world because their own is dying after years of neglect. The extraterrestrial children obtain evidence from an experiment conducted on Earth by their parents (who have been captured by their own people), that their own world can be saved and more aggressive measures are not needed.
Return from Witch Mountain
After crashing their spacecraft outside of Las Vegas, they are helped by Taxi Driver, played by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, who once again proves that all you have to do to defeat the bad guys is to punch them (which is obviously such a departure for him, although I'm sure he had the writers put all that stuff in the script about him being more intelligent than his character let on).  

They are also helped by a female UFO expert, in town to present at a sci-fi convention, and pursued not only by some shadowing government goons, but also by an alien killing machine sent by their planet's military leaders

The government agency are pathetically inefficient and don't come across as menacing at all and the supposedly impenetrable 'Witch Mountain' seems easy enough for a Taxi Driver and UFO expert to break into and sneak past all that top level security.
Race to Witch Mountain billboard
I'm sorry to say that I almost fell asleep during the movie, but it does have some redeeming features. It has cameos by the original children, now all grown up, Ike Eisenmann (Tony) plays the local town sheriff and Kim Richards (Tia) plays a friendly waitress who helps them escape from the government agents chasing them. Plus there are nods to the original, and a bit of comedy relief, when Sarah uses her telepathy to speak to a junkyard dog.

There are also some nice visual effects, especially when the boy Seth alters his molecular density to become strong enough to stop pursuing vehicles and a hail of bullets, plus I also thought the hidden 'experiment' looked convincingly alien.

Aside from that, I'm not racing out to see it again or particularly wanting to watch it again, so I can only give Race to Witch Mountain two ** stars, and think instead I'll try and track down a copy of the original movie. It's not necessarily a bad movie, just another disappointing remake.

If you think I'm being too harsh, or if your children loved it, let me know what you think, after all I'm just a big kid at heart anyway...

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