Editors' pick

Race to Witch Mountain

Race to Witch Mountain movie poster
MPAA rating: PG
Genre: Comedy, Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy
Jack (Dwayne Johnson) is swept up in the adventure of a lifetime when he meets Sara and Seth, a pair of extraterrestrial youths who possess paranormal powers.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino
Director: Andy Fickman
Running time: 1:39
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Editorial Review

In the final spring of the Vietnam War, Disney rolled out a modest but pleasing fantasy about a pair of alien children with special powers. "Escape to Witch Mountain" bloomed into a surprise Easter hit, spawned a sequel and lodged a spot in the pop-culture data bank of the "Brady Bunch" generation.

For the no-less-pleasing new version, "Race to Witch Mountain," screenwriters Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback have retooled the Alexander Key novel that provided fodder for the original, creating a vehicle for Dwayne (the wrestler formerly known as The Rock) Johnson. This is a good thing. Equally at ease with the slicked-up horseplay of "Get Smart" or indie-film satire of "Southland Tales," Johnson is one of showbiz's most engaging leading men: a beefcake with an unerring instinct for the absurd.

Johnson is a sly delight in "Race to Witch Mountain," playing an ex-con named Jack Bruno who has traded in his NASCAR dreams to drive a cab in Las Vegas. In between trundling sci-fi geeks to a UFO convention, Jack picks up a pair of very anxious blond tweens named Seth (Alexander Ludwig) and Sara (AnnaSophia Robb).

Once Seth halts a pursuing SUV with his breastplate and Sara levitates Jack's tip change, it becomes clear that Jack is dealing with two strays from outer space who have crash-landed in the desert.

With government agents hot on his trail, Jack endeavors to spirit his young charges back to their ship.

Director Andy Fickman makes it clear from the propulsive opening credits that he means business with that velocity-minded title. In barely 15 minutes, vehicles are screeching and rolling over in the desert. In lieu of hills, "Race to Witch Mountain" has Johnson, who lifts the script above its conventional cat-and-mouse stratagems with his buoyant wiseacre timing.

-- Jan Stuart (March 13, 2009)

Contains sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and thematic elements.