Making the Grades
As usual, I’m leery of remakes. Some things, like old classic movies and sleeping dogs, are often better left alone. Fortunately in Race to Witch Mountain, the Disney Studio has managed to recapture much of the action adventure experience of its 1975 film, Escape to Witch Mountain while updating the special effects and storyline. On the downside, they have also pumped up the amount of weapon violence and physical fighting.
In the movie, Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is a former felon trying to scrape together a life as a taxi driver in Las Vegas. He hits the jackpot when a couple of young fares slide into the backseat of his cab and offer him a wad of $100 bills if he’ll drive them to a remote desert location. As the meter clicks well past $700, they arrive at an abandoned homestead in the middle of nowhere.
While the trip hasn’t been without incident, (their car has been smashed, bashed and nearly pushed off the road by an army of SUVs), the recovering criminal concludes he can’t accept all their cash and follows Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) into the ramshackle house. But inside, the teens are opening a series of secret passages, hidden behind a fridge door and shelves of bottled fruit, which eventually lead to a lush environment beneath the desert sands.
Although he’s been hesitant to accept his hunch, the mysterious location, fantastical plants and a Terminator-type assassin named Siphon who begins to attack them, confirms that these two travelers aren’t run-of-the-mill long-distance commuters. In need of Jack’s help, Sara and Seth reveal their identity and ask for assistance in recovering their spaceship that a secret U.S. space agency has locked down in a hidden location.
With Siphon stalking them at every turn and secret government officials on their trail, the innocent aliens are caught in a deadly race for safe passage back to their home planet.
The encounters with Siphon, gun-slinging agents and black-garbed SWAT members involve rounds of live ammunition, fireballs and hand-to-hand fighting as well as crushed cars and reckless driving. Though little blood is shown, characters also are thrown from moving vehicles or pushed through plate glass windows. Particularly for younger audience members, these portrayals are intense and often confusing.
Yet for older kids, the film is free of the usual teen movie concerns, such as language, sexual innuendos or scenes of underage drinking. Given the difficulty of finding engaging yet suitable entertainment for this age group, the tongue-in-cheek comedy combined with the action adventure in Race to Witch Mountain might make it an above average pursuit for the slightly older crowd.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Race to Witch Mountain.
The actors who played the children Tia and Tony (Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann) in Escape to Witch Mountain, make appearances in this film as well. Watch for Seth and Sara’s meeting with Tina, the waitress, and Sheriff Antony.
How does the interaction between Jack and the teens help change their perceptions of one another? Why is it easier to misjudge someone you don’t know? Do you think it is likely that a species from another planet would be similar to us, or the type of creatures Hollywood has created?
What evidence is there that Jack is trying to change his life for the better? What impact did his childhood have on his decisions in life? What other characters experience positive improvements in their lives?