March 11, 2009

Race to Witch Mountain

Star Drek

Grade: C

Director: Andy Fickman

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino, Ciarán Hinds, and Tom Everett Scott

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? Take a whiff of Dwayne Johnson’s recent career arc, and you’ll detect a heaping helping of Disneyfied family-fare mixed with a dash of muscle-flexing action for flavor. Sadly, his latest concoction, Race to Witch Mountain, is yet another bankable but bland entrée that leaves you hungry for more.

Disney revisits their Witch Mountain franchise in an innocuous diversion that makes for pleasant enough viewing granted you do not bother applying even a modicum of logic. Otherwise, you’ll wonder why two Aryan aliens (a delightful AnnaSophia Robb and dour Alexander Ludwig) who assume human form and exhibit superpowers – one can alter his molecular structure and the other is capable of reading minds, levitating objects, blowing things up, operating a car telepathically, etc. – need the help of a Las Vegas cabbie (Johnson, now officially sans his “Rock” moniker) whose woebegone backstory is belied by the fact that, well, he looks like The Rock.

Aided further by a defrocked astrophysicist (the underutilized Carla Guigno) and a dog (the animal, not this movie, though the term aptly applies to both), the teen E.T.s are on a mission to deliver some gizmo holding the secret to environmental renewal back to their dying native planet. Standing in the way of their wormhole home is an intergalactic assassin patterned after Predator and a cadre of government MIBs led by Ciarán Hinds (wearing a constipated scowl).

Indeed, this derivative film blindly assimilates contemporary alien-movie conventions more than Disney films of yore, despite brief cameos by Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, the former child stars in the 1970s Witch Mountain films. Johnson is affable enough, but it is hard to know whether it is the one-note Disney roles or one-note performances that inhibit his growth as an actor and box office behemoth. This is no exaggeration: Johnson once exhibited more charisma during any five minutes of “WWE Monday Night Raw” than the entirety of his film career thus far. Perhaps it’s high time for The Rock to take a trip down Know Your Role Boulevard.

Neil Morris

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