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Massawyrm has fun with the heavily flawed RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN...

Published at: March 13, 2009, 7:50 a.m. CST by merrick


Hola all. Massawyrm here. RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN is one of those great ideas that just didn’t turn out so well. I had fun with it, but I’m a child of the '80s who grew up madly, deeply and truly in love with science fiction/fantasy B-films. And while this might have an A-list star and a top notch supporting cast, it is a deeply flawed, underwritten tangle that cannot escape its own b-movie roots. That’s not to say that it isn’t an effective family film that won’t be embraced by today’s 10 year olds – it probably will. But despite the talent present and the keen nostalgia factor, the film is a cliché riddled mess that won’t endear itself to viewers much older than that. Based upon the same book as the original ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, this follows roughly the same story. But in the place of an aging widower instead we have a cab driving PG version of THE TRANSPORTER (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) who stumbles upon the kids and must protect them from an alien assassin and a bunch of government types seemingly working for Operation Blue Book. While it is well paced and there are a number of cool action scenes it is burdened with a number of logic flaws that slowly begin to become inescapable. The moment the kids begin to use their intense alien super powers questions begin to form, but once the girl displays the ability to control Johnson’s cab with her mind you begin to wonder why they have Johnson around at all. And if you begin to over think it, the entire film begins to crumble. The Government types possess the ability to find two blurry kids seen from the back of their heads by sifting through footage from 3000 Las Vegas security cameras in under 10 seconds, but if a half destroyed taxi cab zigs around a corner when they expect it to zag, they get waylaid and lose it for hours. One of the aliens possesses the ability to read minds, but only when it involves speeding the plot along – never when she’s curious about being inconspicuous on a strange planet. The aliens know they’re being tracked and don’t trust Johnson, but that never stops them from letting him follow them around into secret rooms that they should probably keep to themselves. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. While kids certainly won’t be asking questions like this, you will, and so will they one day – which sadly means this film won’t grow up very well with them. Much like the original for us. Good sci-fi is internally consistent and holds up to questioning – hell, GREAT sci-fi is so internally consistent that you can actually come up with the answers yourself. This is neither. But it does have a wonderful cast who are all doing their damndest to have a good time, and they are given a precious few wonderful moments that make the film watchable. Ciaran Hinds plays the government baddie and is backed up by a terribly underused Christopher Marquette and Tom Everett Scott – all of whom make the very best of what they’re given. Garry Marshall has a small role and is funny as hell doing it. Johnson is sadly given next to nothing to do outside of generic action guy stuff, which admittedly he does very well, but it is painfully obvious in a movie filled with comedy that they aren’t using his natural talent for comedy. The one good line he’s given he nails and creates the funniest moment in the film, but outside of that you can just see him struggling to find something to do despite being the center of attention. The kids, on the other hand, are fantastic – just as adorable and likable as their predecessors, and given enough interesting to do to make them genuinely fascinating to watch. But no matter how much you like everyone, the film gets weighed down in a very cheesy, theme park driven third act loaded with “Who the hell would actually build that” moments. One scene has the heroes scaling down an “exhaust shaft”, a giant metal cylinder that spontaneously erupts in pillars of flame. Seriously. Who the hell would actually build that? And if you did, why the hell would you put a ladder in it? I don’t know, but it’s there. And this moment is not alone in its silliness. Compounding the problem are the fairly cheap special effects, ultimately trumped by the VERY WORST CG SPECIAL EFFECT I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE. Oh my god. It’s awful. You will laugh, I promise you. And no, I don’t need to describe it for you to know what I’m talking about. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s what one of my good friends refers to as a “That JUST happened” moment. This is not, sadly, a great family film. It is however a fun Saturday matinee. It’s goofy, well paced and likable enough when it is allowed to be and will entertain the hell out of your kids who will be having a blast daydreaming about being an awesome alien super being with really neat powers. And you might feel a twinge of nostalgia for when you enjoyed films like this, perhaps even the original. But if you think about it too hard it’ll crumble right before your eyes, so it is best enjoyed as what it is. Goofy, mindless fun. If you don’t have kids interested in seeing this then there’s little reason to bother. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback

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  • March 13, 2009, 7:54 a.m. CST

    FIRST?

    by Jugdish

    GOTTA TRY

  • March 13, 2009, 7:55 a.m. CST

    second?

    by Foomas

  • March 13, 2009, 7:55 a.m. CST

    Maybe they take Johnson into secret rooms

    by cookylamoo

    Because they're planning to kill him later or maybe you just don't want to go anywhere without your Johnson.

  • March 13, 2009, 7:57 a.m. CST

    Rock et sauce

    by Foomas

    I think it's time for him to stop goofing around. He is on a downward spiral to DTV!!!!!!!!!

  • March 13, 2009, 7:58 a.m. CST

    For those of us who don't care enough to see it...

    by JuanSanchez

    tell us about the crappy special effect.

  • March 13, 2009, 7:59 a.m. CST

    by PedroM

    what about Carla Gugino?

  • March 13, 2009, 8:01 a.m. CST

    Who are the ad wizards...

    by wampa 1

    ...that came up with this one?

  • March 13, 2009, 8:03 a.m. CST

    but will it beat me and rape me?

    by alice 13

    i have standards, you know.

  • March 13, 2009, 8:17 a.m. CST

    So better than WATCHMEN in your mind?

    by gboybama

    No accounting for taste, I guess. (Just kidding around.) But, for all the slavish coverage of Snyder's film, in the end several reviewers left an unfairly negative impression of the highly filmable WATCHMEN. The Assh@les piece is going to go down as one of the most retarded fanboy nitpicking fests of all time once WATCHMEN, the movie, attains cult status nirvana.

  • March 13, 2009, 8:19 a.m. CST

    Exhaust shaft = stompers

    by duct tape wallet

    like in 'Galaxy Quest'. "!@#$ that!"

  • March 13, 2009, 8:24 a.m. CST

    I totally agree Massa: For all of Johnson's bad-boy image

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

    he's really got some comedic charm... <p> There's a good reason he's not going exclusively as "The Rock" anymore--because that was just a persona. He's more than that, but the powers that be keep trying to stuff him in that pigeonhole.

  • March 13, 2009, 8:25 a.m. CST

    gboybama: Oh. Fuck. No.

    by Massawyrm 1

    I've seen Watchmen 3 times now. I most likely will not end up seeing this again. As disappointed as I was with the ending of Watchmen, I still find much of it a remarkable film - as I've stated twice already.

  • March 13, 2009, 8:37 a.m. CST

    My daughter wants to see this a lot

    by Jakester

    She's six has been keen to see this since she saw Escape to With Mountain two weeks ago. She asked those types of questions about the Escape: "Daddy, why are the people trying to catch the kids when they know that the kids are so powerful?" "If the kids can do <x>, why didn't they do it <in this scene>?" I expect more of the same when I take her to see this one.

  • March 13, 2009, 8:59 a.m. CST

    The Rock Obama was great on SNL

    by Brody77

    He was on the right path with The Rundown, then he went all pacifier on us and seems to be stuck in the kiddie friendly market. This guy should be the Next Action Hero, be it as Black Adam or pretty much anything he puts his mind to. Hell, put him & Wolverine in a movie together and they'd be brilliant!!

  • March 13, 2009, 9:01 a.m. CST

    By the way - Au Pair 3? WTF???!!

    by Brody77

    Who picks the advertising for this bloody site?! Jesus H Christ.

  • March 13, 2009, 9:26 a.m. CST

    worse than???

    by Himbo

    Is the CGI effect worse than the Rock as the Scorpion King in MUMMY 2? That is the worst I've seen on the big screen.

  • March 13, 2009, 9:41 a.m. CST

    Who cares...Will Kim Richards still give me wood?

    by conspiracy

  • March 13, 2009, 9:45 a.m. CST

    How about AnnaSophia Robb???

    by conspiracy

    Is she Fap-tastic?</P><p> Oh Fuck you guys..she is 15...perfectly legal most everywhere but here.

  • March 13, 2009, 9:45 a.m. CST

    How about AnnaSophia Robb???

    by conspiracy

    Is she Fap-tastic?</P><p> Oh Fuck you guys..she is 15...perfectly legal most everywhere but here.

  • March 13, 2009, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Kim Richards in "Tuff Turf"!

    by fiester

    Hottest crimped-haired chick ever!

  • March 13, 2009, 10:32 a.m. CST

    Massa

    by gboybama

    Just having a little fun man. Enjoyed your take on WATCHMEN, even though I disagree.<p>My experience of the ending didn't have the problems some experienced. I thought the lingering shots on the New York citizens being lifted off the ground and vaporized were iconic and sadly beautiful. Taken as it is, I didn't need to see the carnage in any more detail. In the extended cut, once we get to know the newsman and the cab driver, it will have even more resonance.<p> As for Veidt and how his arc concludes in the film, I really thought his letting Dan pummel him show the level of second guessing and self hatred he felt once his plan had concluded. The pull away shot from him standing alone in the frigid, smashed up Karnac drove that home.<p> So, in the end, yes. Different than the book. But, wholly satisfying in its own right, IMHO.

  • March 13, 2009, 10:53 a.m. CST

    If ya smellalalalalalala, what the rock

    by Slippy

    is sending straight to DVD. Hell, John Cena looks like a more credible star right now than him.

  • March 13, 2009, 10:53 a.m. CST

    I hope the Rock writes us no open leetr next week.

    by jarjarmessiah

    "The Rock says this movie is supposed to disturb you."

  • March 13, 2009, 11:03 a.m. CST

    LIGHTEN UP. Sometimes it's just fun entertainment.

    by Jawa 007

    And what was the crappy CG effect? I gots to know.

  • March 13, 2009, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Meh, it's a kiddie flick.

    by Orbots Commander

    This is cool movie news?

  • March 13, 2009, 11:49 a.m. CST

    the effect

    by altoandando

    that's all we want is the get the effect and move on. describe please.

  • March 13, 2009, 11:57 a.m. CST

    maybe I'm wrong

    by oisin5199

    but this looks like a remake of Return to Witch Mountain, rather than the original. In the original, they didn't know they were aliens until the very end. Here, they're just - we're aliens and you need to save us. Boorring. That original film was magical, though even that wasn't as good as the book, which was way creepier and more disturbing. In fact, a proper adaptation of the book would NOT be a big Hollywood production - it would be small, indie, and weird. Kinda like Donnie Darko.

  • March 13, 2009, 12:21 p.m. CST

    An Explanation About the Effects...

    by ElectricDreams

    I'm going to say the effect mentioned most likely is where they are walking up to the spaceship towards the end, it looks like an effect that in the 1975 version would have been cool. But I noticed a few cheesy effects that mirrored the same looking, same feeling effects as the 1975 film, even down to the color palette and over saturation, so I would wonder if Andy Fickman chose that style of CG effect for that very reason?

  • March 13, 2009, 12:32 p.m. CST

    Sweet

    by DeadPanWalking

    An ex-wrestler has one funny line? I'm there!

  • March 13, 2009, 12:53 p.m. CST

    The only reason I'd go to watch. . .

    by maelstrom_ZERO

    . . .would be to see AnnaSophia Robb. She was the best part of Bridge to Terebithia. I don't think I've ever seen a movie (nor an actress) that so perfectly captured what it was like to be a child, faced with child problems, and dealing with the kind of loving, devoted friendship that's only possible when you're that young.

  • March 13, 2009, 1:44 p.m. CST

    jarjarmessiah

    by ECUPirate71

    You are one funy MFer. That made me laugh out loud. Bravo.

  • March 13, 2009, 1:52 p.m. CST

    maelstrom_ZERO RE: Terebithia

    by gboybama

    Er, the girl character from that movie was the most unnatural child I've ever seen depicted in a film. She was like the fully self actualized dream id of your typical baby boomer hippie couple. You know, when the parents are all like, "We'll bring this young being of light into the world and let her experience all that the world has to offer and let her roam the universe unfettered by the rules, contraints or morals of Puritanical western culture! We shall learn from her innate child-like wisdom!" <p>Then, of course, in the end, the girl ends up on her back for pay starting at about 13 to try and pay for her meth habit. Good job permissive parents!<p> Anyway, at least the girl in the film got killed. Thank goodness that sent the right message about all this "La la la IMAGINATION!" crap.<p> Dirty hippies.

  • March 13, 2009, 3:07 p.m. CST

    gboybama I dunno...

    by MurderMostFowl

    I grew up in the 80's and had a neighbor that pretty much fit the BTT character to a tee. In the movie, they actually toned her down a bit from the book, IIRC. She is supposed to be weird and offputting.. supposed to make the protagonist challenge his own preconceptions, etc. <BR> The book doesn't speak lovingly about the girls parents... in fact they're considered weird by the other families. <BR> A cautionary tale of the dangers of being a liberal arts major. :) <BR><BR> I recommend the book to adults and teens alike in part because it captures a bond between two people that you don't often find in pop culture... real friendship.

  • March 13, 2009, 3:11 p.m. CST

    Bad weekend for movies

    by lockesbrokenleg

  • March 13, 2009, 4:13 p.m. CST

    Piss poor review for one huge reason!

    by CerebralAssassin

    Hmmm, a whole review without mentioning the delicious Carla Gugino, who's maddeningly grogeous in this film. I question your masculine credentials.

  • March 13, 2009, 4:40 p.m. CST

    The Effect: Bullet time

    by critch

    The only really bad effect I saw was a 5-10 second shot of some slow mo bullets bouncing off an invisible shield. Bullets didn't even look like they were moving. *shrug* The movie was awesome, I thought.

  • March 13, 2009, 5:31 p.m. CST

    Oh the bullets...

    by Jawa 007

    Yep. Who cares. Still a good movie.

  • March 13, 2009, 7:10 p.m. CST

    I don't remember any bullets

    by CerebralAssassin

    I frankly don't remember any horrible CG shot. All the CG was cheese, which I think was the point.

  • March 13, 2009, 8:44 p.m. CST

    I always thought the worst CGI in a movie should be...

    by MurderMostFowl

    The award for worst CGI in a movie should be reserved for those movies that had the budget and was well within their means to create something better and didn't. Or movies that have blatantly bad CGI while everything else is fine. <BR><BR> For example.... There were so many awful "CGI for no reason" scenes in the 90's. <BR><BR> The alligators in Arnie's terrible flick "Eraser" is one, but the Airplane in Harrison Ford's "Air Force One" top the list for me. <BR><BR> The goddamn movie was about the freaking plane and you couldn't just film a regular 747? This is somehow hard?

  • March 13, 2009, 9:21 p.m. CST

    but my question is this....

    by The Amazing G

    does it contain a Flight Of The Navigator reference?

  • March 13, 2009, 10:46 p.m. CST

    The worst CGI effect in motion picture history...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...was the "Rock Scorpion" at the end of The Mummy Returns. I literally burst out laughing when I saw that at the theater. HILARIOUSLY BAD.

  • March 14, 2009, 4:36 a.m. CST

    Let me try to answer some of the questions

    by GibsonUSA Returns

    I thought this was a good fun movie.<BR><BR> 1. From my perspective the kids keep The Rock around because they are...kids. Alien kids, but kids. Numerous times in the movie they look up at him almost like an uncle. They are kids that can read minds and fool around with matter...but they are kids. And they acted like kids throughout. <BR><BR> 2. Using the cameras to find the kids in the city quickly was lame, okay. But I'd expect them to have a relatively harder time finding the them when they are hrs outside the city...somewhere.<BR><BR> 3. The kids allowed The Rock to follow them, because they were scared and nervous kids hiding behind a sofa at the time. And plus, the girl could probably read that he was genuinely concerned.<BR><BR> 4. Regarding the exhaust shaft...well I dont know, I've never been to a hidden movie lair where they are keeping two alien kids before...<BR><BR>

  • March 14, 2009, 11:22 a.m. CST

    That shaft was an exhaust port

    by Jawa 007

    The Death Star had one, why can't a secret government lair?

  • March 14, 2009, 4:28 p.m. CST

    worst CGI

    by theznuts

    for a movie of such scale that movie has some really shitty CGI shots not just 1 or 2 i'm talking A TON......it's sad that when you guys love a movie so much before it even hit s the screen...you can't admit when it finally is on screen it didn't live up to your expectations....for a ground breaking film the CGI was pretty shitty.....

  • March 14, 2009, 4:30 p.m. CST

    worst CGI

    by theznuts

    i forgot to say Watchmen has some of the Shittiest CGI for a movie that is suppose to be GROUNDBREAKING

  • March 14, 2009, 5:40 p.m. CST

    This movie sucks. You suck.

    by thebearovingian

    If ya smell what I'm cookin'

  • March 15, 2009, 12:19 a.m. CST

    no seriously....

    by The Amazing G

    I want to know

  • March 15, 2009, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Amazing G

    by Dasinfogod

    Nope no overt FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR references, but a surprise JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN one! What the hell? Meredith Salenger just kinda fell off the radar but pops up here for a 30 second cameo. Oh, and TRON showed up for a quick flash in convention sequence.<p>One fast question about the new DVD re-release: in all the "Disney sci-fi" supplements there isn't a single reference to THE BLACK HOLE! I know the bulk of the disc is just a double-dip from the previous edition, but was BLACK HOLE not available at that time and that's why it didn't show up? As far as I know, it's still in print. Not to mention, this being the 30th anniversary in December, is Disney planning any new edition or a Blu-Ray of this misguided-but-entertaining mess of an epic? Maximillian, bring us ABOUT!!!

  • March 16, 2009, 7:43 a.m. CST

    thanks Dasinfogod

    by The Amazing G

    that 100% sucks, talk about missed opportunities man! I so wanted this flick to give a nice shout out to FOTN (perhaps a model of Max at the UFO convention or a quote of the score or SOMETHING!)

  • March 16, 2009, 7:44 a.m. CST

    I mean Disney makes another family film about Aliens...

    by The Amazing G

    and not ONE reference to the BEST Disney film about Aliens? WTF man!