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DVD Review: Race to Witch Mountain

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“How could it be that a human who is so large in form felt so small inside?”

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gets to peel away his tough guy layers in the sci-fi Disney movie update of The Race to Witch Mountain, a deluxe home video edition including a Blu-ray/DVD combination with digital copy. This 98-minute chase adventure stars Johnson as a cab driver named Jack Bruno with a checkered past who gets caught up in even more adventure than he experiences in a “normal” day. Set mainly in the Las Vegas area, the movie leans on Johnson’s charisma as Andy Fickman directs this PG-rated movie.

Anna Sophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig play two unique young adults named Sara and Seth who become targets of a secret government organization. Their language skills and logical thinking provide thrills and laughs as filmmakers provide an entertaining mix that sustains the movie. Bruno has plenty of people chasing after him so the thrills and stunts are constant and well done. Carla Gugino is a great casting choice as Dr. Alex Friedman, a discredited alien expert. This quartet predictably bonds pretty well except for some forced drama and action sequences that needed stronger structure — too many close-up shots can't replace better choreography.

Ciaran Hinds plays Henry Burke, head of the large government organization intent on quelling alien presence in the United States. The functional supporting cast basically react to the action as they get their moment among the non-stop action. Tom Everett Scott has a minimal role as Burke’s team member Matheson while Chris Marquette plays his partner, Pope. Garry Marshall adds appeal as an esteemed, eccentric colleague of Dr. Friedman who does his part to keep the government off Sara and Seth’s trail.

Burke chases the children, but the Siphon poses more threatening powers. This assassin alien was sent to destroy the children and is played by special effects expert/actor Tom Woodruff Jr. and his stunt double Paul Darnell. Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, stars of the 1975 Escape to Witch Mountain, even make memorable cameo appearances in a diner while another Disney mainstay, Meredith Salenger, plays reporter Natalie Gann. Billy Brown and Cheech Marin round out the supporting cast as a tough guy and mechanic respectively.

Logic in the formulaic story gets a bit muddled and the fighting choreography needs improvement, but it’s still entertaining and has plenty of action, something Johnson knows very well. Filmmakers add continuity from the previous films with the blueprint dates and Winnebago return appearance as the characters arrive at their destination. If you can’t figure out all the references to the original series, then just watch the “Which Mountain?” bonus feature.

Other DVD extras include about 20+ minutes of deleted/extended scenes. The standard blooper reel entertains, but overall more extras would’ve been nice. One ending extension brings more closure to Ciaran Hinds’ antagonist while dropping more hints at possible sequels. The sequel Return From Witch Mountain released in 1978, then two television movies followed before this recommended with reservations movie, which is a nice escape for all ages. This home video version needed more bonus features/extras to boost the experience. Rated PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements.

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