From left to right, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig and Dwayne Johnson in "Race to Witch Mountain."
RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN
2 ½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements
Walt Disney Pictures
Disney’s re-imagining of the 1975 family adventure “Escape to Witch Mountain,” has its share of flaws but it’s still a likable feature, in large part thanks to the winning cast.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Jack Bruno, a Las Vegas cab driver with a sketchy past. Despite his desire to go straight, former associates are trying to lure him back to a life of crime, but that becomes a minor concern when two children, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), wind up in his cab and offer him $15,000 for an extraordinarily long journey.
It doesn’t take long for Johnson to learn that the kids have special abilities and that they’re being hunted by both the U.S. government and something far worse. When Sara and Seth tell Jack they are actually extraterrestrial, he balks. Still, he sticks with them, trying to keep them out of harm’s way despite increasing trouble and the nagging thought that they’re telling the truth. Eventually, Jack recruits a beautiful scientist named Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) to the cause.
The story has a number of plot holes, most notably that the children regularly fail to use their abilities at times when they would come in most handy and that elite government agents are depicted as bumbling goons. This may bother demanding viewers, but the youngsters in the audience should be able to look right past the trouble spots and enjoy the ride. Truth is, adults can do that too, and those who like Johnson’s affable demeanor probably will. He is winning from start to finish and Robb, Ludwig and Gugino only serve to make him better.
Credit also goes to director and co-writer Andy Fickman who keeps the pace fast enough that viewers don’t have much time to dissect the nagging inconsistencies.