My daughter Rachel and I had a movie date last Sunday. We saw Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain and had fun. Of course, she knows that going to a movie with me includes the dreaded “talk about the movie.” Knowing there’s no avoiding the inevitable, she kicked it off: “Are you going to give it a good review?”
I replied, in probably the worst way possible from her perspective, “What did you think about it?”
She said, “I really like The Rock. He is really good and makes everything funny.” And, on that point, we were in complete agreement. I think Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) is wonderful, as if Randy “The Ram” from The Wrestler chose a different road and turned his fame and charisma into an acting career.
Johnson settles very naturally into his roles and here graces Jack Bruno with considerable charm. He can plunge into any situation no matter how dire – and into any script no matter how generic – and come out unscathed. In Witch Mountain, every ounce of that charm is needed and it serves him well.
Rachel also liked the special effects. “I hate it when effects look cheesy. It ruins everything. These looked really real.” Having personally thought that the effects were cheesy, I changed the subject and turned her attention to a poster for the Transformers sequel.
She said, “That creature looks just like the evil hunter in Witch Mountain.” I offered, “It looks an awful lot like the creature in Predator too.” She wondered, “Why do all these bad creatures look the same?” I suggested, “Lack of imagination?”
Then our discussion hit a lull and I decided a bit of food might get things flowing again. I said, “Do you feel like some ice cream?”
Halfway through her banana cream pie Blizzard I asked, “What did you think of the ending when everyone was crying and saying goodbye?” She said, “That was weird. I didn’t feel sad at all. I didn’t know what they were crying about.” I asked, “Did you like the two kids?” She said, “Not really. They were too, um, I don’t know…” I suggested, “They were too much like robots?” She said, “Exactly!”
I reminded her that the ending was just like E.T., the best Disney movie Disney never made. It was as if the makers of Witch Mountain knew they needed tearful goodbyes, but forgot one thing. The tears need to be earned. We get to know E.T. and fall in love with him. He and the kids and their mom and the scientist have become a family by the end.
In Witch Mountain, we watch Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) stare blankly and do stock alien superpower type things like make objects float in the air and read minds (didn’t E.T. get there first?), but we never care about them, the surrogate family between them, Bruno, and Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino) never happens in our hearts.
It’s too bad. The movie could have been better than its tired ideas glued together by car chases that turn highways into demolition derbies.
Part of the movie takes place at a Las Vegas sci-fi convention. The conflict between Sara, Seth, Bruno, and Dr. Alex as well as the evil hunter and a bunch of faceless government bad guys crashes into the sci-fi celebration – and the fans play along, laughing and ducking and declaring, “Best convention ever." Rachel and I both laughed.
I wish the whole movie had so appealed to my inner geek.