Jack Bruno is a Las Vegas cab driver having to deal with all sorts of customers, especially when there is a sci-fi convention in town. When two children, Seth and Sara, appear in the back of his cab, they offer him a huge amount of money for a long trip. It soon becomes clear that these kids aren’t everything they seem to be when they are pursued by government agents and a strange alien assassin. Getting caught up in their plight, Jack must help them save their own planet before Earth becomes a target for invasion.

Race To Witch Mountain (2009) – Director: Andy Fickman

Is Race To Witch Mountain appropriate for kids

Rating: PG

Running Length: 98 mins

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig

Genre: Science Fiction, Action/Adventure

 

REVIEW

Based upon the novel ‘Escape To Witch Mountain’ by Alexander Key, ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ is the second remake of the 1975 Disney movie which was named after the book. This is very much a family friendly, action/adventure movie which is definitely aimed at a young audience. Dwayne Johnson is very likeable in his role as Jack Bruno, a man with a criminal past, having to cope with the bizarre people who get into his cabs as well as the threatening thugs who work for his former employer. The children, Seth and Sara (played by AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) are watchable but are a little dull and clichéd. Other than being slightly wide-eyed and naive, there is little to differentiate between them and ordinary young teenagers. Ludwig in particular has a typical teenage attitude and his almost permanent scowl becomes a little tiresome.

The main trouble with ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ is that it doesn’t give enough of what it promises to be. The ‘action/adventure’ tag would be an overstatement as the movie is a little too boring. The ‘science fiction’ tag is barely earned with the very human looking and acting ‘aliens’ and only a few glimpses of the alien assassin; plus the flying saucer is only seen at the very end. In fact, despite Witch Mountain being in the title of the movie, the mountain itself is hardly mentioned and is only seen and visited in the last 20 minutes of the film. Essentially, ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ is a run of the mill family movie. It isn’t a bad film but it’s also not great. Kids are likely to enjoy it but could become a little bored with the lack of action.

IS ‘RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

Towards the beginning of the movie, it is established that Jack has previously been associated with a dangerous man named ‘Wolf’ when two men approach and threaten him. However this is quite mild and Jack is in no way intimidated by them. These men follow Jack throughout the movie but they are rather incompetent and are not frightening.

It is revealed that Seth and Sara, the two young aliens, have certain superhuman abilities. Seth demonstrates his ability to move through solid matter during a car chase when he leaves the vehicle through the rear of the car. He then stands in the middle of the road while one of the cars chasing them speeds towards him. There is then an impact but the car crumples around Seth who continues to stand still and is fine. The car crashes but those inside are not injured.

A short while later, when the cab is being chased again, Jack, Seth and Sara are driving along a train track while a train hurtles towards them. They narrowly escape being hit but in the process the train crashes and derails. It is revealed in the dialogue that the train driver (who was shown before the crash) is ‘banged up but still alive’. It is therefore implied that the driver was the only person on the train.

There are a few potentially scary moments that might affect younger children. Seth and Sara go into a spooky wooden cabin and Jack, who is worried about them, goes in after them. The cabin is dark and the scene is rather suspenseful as Jack is clearly uneasy about being there. As he walks through, a light is knocked which swings back and forth and a brief shot of the faceless alien assassin is seen behind Jack (who hasn’t noticed it). The sharp sting of music ensures that the audience are aware that this is a scary moment. A dialogue moment to may be wary of is when Seth and Sara walk through a refrigerator and, still uneasy about the cabin, Jack says to himself ‘No Jack, don’t go in the pimped-out fridge’.

As well as the alien assassin (called a Siphon), Seth and Sara are also pursued by ruthless government agents, led by Henry Burke (played by Ciarán Hinds). Burke in particular is extremely aggressive and will stop at nothing to get the kids. Towards the end of the movie, Seth and Sara are unexpectedly hit in their necks with tranquiliser darts. They are taken to a government facility are lie unconscious on medical tables. The scientists explain that in order to understand their alien physiology, it could take some time before any medical procedures can begin. Burke overrules them, saying that he wants experiments to start immediately. The scientists protest, saying that this could kill them but after Burke threatens them, they reluctantly obey their orders.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

Race to Witch Mountain’ is an entertaining, if a little slow, family sci-fi adventure movie. While it is enjoyable to watch, it is unlikely to get repeat viewings or become a Disney classic. This is a movie that is aimed at and appropriate for kids but, due to the movie being a little boring and unlikely to engage younger minds, we would recommend it for children aged 6 and over.

  • Violence:  1/5 (There are a few car chases but no-one is seriously hurt. The Siphon is quite violent and its mission is to kill Seth and Sara but it never becomes too scary)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (there is a mildly emotionally charged scene towards the end)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (The scene in the spooky cabin may be a little frightening for younger children. The Siphon, initially, is only seen in glimpses and wears a helmet which makes it look scary. Towards the end, this helmet is removed and reveals an ugly, ‘Predator’ like face)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5       
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (Government agent, Burke, is constantly telling his men that he wants Seth and Sara caught, by any means necessary. He insists on medical experiments being conducted on them before the scientists are ready and, when they escape, he says to his men ‘deadly force authorised’)    
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of family, friendship, helping people who need you and fighting against authority when it is the right thing to do.

Words by Laura Record

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