Race to Witch Mountain had all the possibilities to be a great movie. It’s a wonderful storyline: two extraterrestrial children crash land in the desert and must get back to their spacecraft in order to save their home planet–and ours. An “odd couple” of adult humans helps them. Meanwhile they run from an alien assassin, the Las Vegas mob. and a horde of nasty bureaucrats from a secret federal agency.
Race is full of action: lots of car chases, a train wreck, a predatory robot, a space ship escaping from a mountaintop hideaway. It’s also rife with some comic opportunities, set within a wild UFO convention in glittery Las Vegas. The costumer for the film must have had entirely too much fun creating hundreds of wild costumes for aliens from dozens of foreign galaxies. Special effects abound with explosions and crashes and a gleaming spacecraft. The music, by the way, by Trevor Rabin (Get Smart) is catchy and impressive, making the action sound like it comes from a much bigger movie.
Alas, Race is all show and no heart. The script, despite that great story, is deadened with horrible, boring dialogue that makes even the usually humorous Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (The Game Plan) sound like he left his personality on some far-away wrestling mat. The most interesting characters in the story are the alien teenagers, but they play second fiddle to Johnson’s errant cab driver character–a big mistake. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that kids like seeing kids on the screen. Amusing adults are way down the totem pole. In Race, the teenagers, very nicely played, are never given enough screen time to make themselves memorable. Another big mistake, because these young actors–AnnaSophia Robb (A Bridge to Terabithia) and Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising)–are solid performers and could easily have handled much more onscreen responsibility. Worse, their dialogue, which could have been hilarious alien takes on colloquial Earth syntax, was even more deadly dull than that inflicted on Dwayne Johnson.
Let’s talk gender… there’s a nice female part, a brave scientist played enthusiastically by Carla Gugino (Spy Kids). But the Disney studio, which should know better — this is 2009 for pity’s sake–presents this major production with no other female roles! Women could easily have played many of the other parts. But nope, all the secondary characters, including the horde of government bureaucrats, cops, UFO conference assistants, etc. are played by men. Shame.
Bottomline: the movie is fun at times and it definitely moves like a shooting comet. But so unforgettable that your wallet will be happier if you catch it at the bargain matinee.