One of the most beloved memories of my childhood was settling in on Sunday nights to watch the Disney movie of the week. After a bath I’d dress in my pajamas, snuggle into my parents bed and ready myself for whatever adventure awaits. One of my favorite Disney movies of the time was Escape to Witch Mountain. It was just mysterious enough to be thrilling (magic kids who could play with every toy in the nursery at one time with the power of their minds?!) while not being too scary.
So, it was with some hesitation that I approached the 2009 remake called “Race to Witch Mountain.”. After all, it features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I mean, have we lost all respect for things sacred? We skipped it in the theatre, but when it was released on DVD recently, I decided it was time to step into the 21st and check it out. It turns out that change isn’t always bad, and this is a movie we all enjoyed.
Granted, it’s not complicated and many of the characters are reduced to Disney-generated stereotypes; the ex-con with a heart of gold, the brilliant woman scientist who is reduced to a bumbling idiot under the gaze of a cute guy. Rather than create an air of mystery around the kids, we are given an in-your-face alien storyline that includes a UFO crash, a hunt by typical “Federal Agency” bad guys, and an alien assassin that looks as though the it was the love child of Alien and Predator. (Okay in our house, but a little creepy for younger kids.) However, the young actors are engaging, the dialog is amusing – Dwayne Johnson having recently graduated from the Will Smith School of Entertaining One Liners – and small roles by Cheech Marin and Gary Marshall keep the film rolling along. You can even play the “Damn I’m old” game and look for cameos by the two actors who played the kids in the original movie.
The action – primarily centered around the assasins’ pursuit of the kids – can be intense at times and there are a few moderately violent fight scenes.
It’s hard to replace the classics, but I think this is one case where the update resulted in a movie that’s entertaining fluff for the whole family.