'Race to Witch Mountain' Review: Kids Are From Space, The Rock Is From Vegas
Race to Witch Mountain stumbles right from the start.
It opens with a montage of various news stories, and presidential press conferences regarding alien life or edited to seem that’s what they are talking about in a manner that seems to be begging for us to take it seriously. Like: “See, guys? There’s a historical precedent for aliens!” It seems like a desperate attempt to get the adults in the audience to care about a movie featuring The Rock dealing with two alien kids. It fails.
What follows is an action sequence that feels so desperate for us to take it seriously; the leader of Project Moon Dust, a "Men-In-Black"-esque organization that deals with extraterrestrial phenomena takes down an alien ship just outside of Las Vegas. It has the movie’s antagonist, Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds) barking orders at people in an underlit control room, while the camera pans furiously from one character to another, and Trevor Rabin goes crazy on the soundtrack. I couldn’t buy any of this. I felt I was watching a fake movie. I kept waiting for a pull-back out of a TV or movie screen. It never came.
The movie perks up a little when introducing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Jack Bruno, a former get-away driver who now drives taxis in Las Vegas. By chance, two alien kids end up becoming part of his fare for the night as he drives them to a destination they do not disclose. That’s the premise of the movie and part of its fundamental problem; we have no idea what the alien kids want. Are they good? Are they bad? We don’t know. Do we care? I guess.
We care for the mystery. Not for the characters. We have no idea who these kids are and as far as Jack Bruno goes, well, he’s drawn in such huge strokes that we can barely attach to him. I’m usually a fan of Johnson’s performances, but here his charisma feels woefully misused. The kids are okay, but the movie is so enamored with their alienation (pun intended) that we never get to really know them, or to see how the friendship between Bruno and them grows. They never really seem to affect each other.
Yet somehow the movie is not boring. It’s simply just there as you watch it, but it manages to not feel like a complete waste of time. In a way, the mystery is engaging enough and Johnson is fun to watch. But beyond that, the movie offers almost nothing of true value. It has a few cute moments, but nothing that can convince anyone to see this movie in any paid or free form. The biggest contribution this movie ever gave to humanity was an internet meme, and that’s not exactly a big achievement, especially when it’s the only one for this movie.