Dwayne Johnson can interplay with anyone, or in the case of Race to Witch Mountain, anything. In the film, he comes across a dog, one of which he detests. It leads to a very funny sequence in which he carries on a conversation about the animal right to its face, yet the scene doesn’t feel like forced comedy. Johnson is charismatic enough that a dog is a worthy on-screen counterpart.
Likewise, his interactions with two young children, Sara (Anna Sophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), are well played. The kids are constrained, acting somewhat robotic on purpose given their roles as aliens. Apparently, human-like aliens are pretty dull.
Witch Mountain inserts a global warming parable into its plot, somewhat misguided and clichéd in today’s Hollywood, but it is quickly skipped over. Witch Mountain is a chase movie, loaded with flashy, energetic action sequences which is knows is its strong suit.
Children will be entertained, as the script offers enough laughs and moves smoothly along to keep them occupied. The mystery of the film builds well as the audience shares Jack Bruno’s (Johnson) confusion as to whom he picked up in his otherwise average taxi cab. Johnson is hardly the right fit for an average cabbie, but as the story goes, he was a former wheelman for a mob boss. Surprisingly logical for a film about aliens, one that develops the character and adds a small sub-plot that plays a role later.
Witch Mountain plays to Johnson’s strength’s, especially during a loaded finale in which he fights a bounty hunter aboard the kid’s spaceship. While some of the fighting can become tiresome, the light tension of the constant chase across Vegas is bright, colorful, and a joy to watch. This is not one for sci-fi fanatics, but makes for fine entry level material for the younger set.
It is also nice to see a film respectful to its roots, bringing back numerous cast members from the original movies, or giving clever nods to those that have passed. Witch Mountain may not be clever or original, but it is entertaining in that glossy, summer Hollywood way while remaining family friendly. It has a goal, and reaches it.
Witch Mountain offers plenty to discuss in terms of its AVC Blu-ray encode. Detail is admirable, nicely delivering crisp facial textures and clean long shots. Colors are bold, with excellent saturation. Contrast is bright without running hot.
Image depth comes with a cost, as black crush is routinely evident. Nighttime scenes are dark, but black suits routinely blend in perfectly with the backdrop, leaving a floating head on screen. Shadow delineation ranges from fair to poor.
Other minor problems, including a flickering roof on a cabin and sporadic noise (first noted inside a car around 15:30) are noted, if not significant problems. They certainly don’t affect the clarity and beauty of the Las Vegas skyline, which this disc shows off wonderfully.
This is not a disc that waits long to “wow” you with a powerful DTS-HD encode. The opening showcases the alien ship crash landing into Earth, and it is wonderful. The crash itself delivers on all counts, including a booming bass shot and debris filling the sound field. Trevor Rabin’s score nicely bleeds into all channels during the action, nicely mixed into the track.
A desert chase nicely captures cars whipping through the soundfield with wonderful accuracy. Likewise, their eventual wrecked fate dominates the low end beautifully. A brief chase through some foliage nicely adds atmosphere, and the UFO convention prominently used in the film is loaded with ambient dialogue. This is a fantastic mix.
Disney doesn’t share the enthusiasm for the film, leaving the disc dry in the extras department. Director Andy Fickman introduces nine deleted scenes as they run for 23 minutes. A short blooper reel is padded with finished footage, while Backstage Disney delivers a short featurette on the various references and in-jokes. As short tutorial on how to use the digital copy included and trailers remain.