Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Race to Witch Mountain

When my husband said he wanted to see Race to Witch Mountain I naturally assumed he was referring to a home movie about a weekend visit to my mother-in-law’s house, but I knew if I was included in the video visiting this wolverine in a Paula Young wig the movie would have to be called When Hell Freezes Over. It’s not that I hate my monster-in-law. It’s just that I loathe her, and there is a difference. I hate boiled tongue or liver and onions. I loathe her, and when people say “I wouldn’t wish (this or that) on my worst enemy” I always imagine my mother-in-law in the midst of whatever that situation might be. In my daydreams, she’s been in prison for life at least a dozen times, married to George Bush, John McCain, Ann Coulter and Sarah Jessica Parker. I’ve seen her blind, paralyzed, forced to live with people in the Big Brother house, on The Real World, and with her own daughter, Lisa, which just might be the most terrifying fate of all for the rest of us because where two of Satan’s minions gather together only evil can reign.

You are probably thinking I am exaggerating, but I am not. You’re thinking: “If she’s so bad then how come your husband is so perfect?” and I will tell you simply this. Remember Adolph Hitler. For all the horror he wrought, he did give the world the Volkswagen. It’s true. So even though the Helenator (as her grandchildren call her) has caused more hurt than ten Hurricane Katrinas in her eighty years, she did manage one remarkable good act, two if you include both the birth of her son AND the blessed day she realized how little she cared for her own child and dumped his day-to-day upbringing on his grandmother rather than be bothered with it herself. Post-partum depression? If so, it’s lasted his entire life and she’s remained a cold and bitter fish to everyone, including her sainted husband, throughout their sixty years of marriage. You’d have to be a saint to live with this viper in a muumuu for that long.

Actually, in some ways, the Helenator reminds me of Dwayne Johnson, the star of Race to Witch Mountain. Both are over-tanned and over-muscled lunkheads, with major receding hairline issues, though Johnson possesses a charisma the Helenator never will. As in his previous Disney collaboration with director Andy Fickman, 2007’s The Game Plan, Johnson doesn’t stray far from his seeming real-life persona of a friendly, wide-smiling and easy-going everyman, thrust into a sudden and unexpected situation. In Race to Witch Mountain, Johnson’s Jack Bruno is a Vegas cab driver in debt to the mob and keeping just a few steps ahead of a couple of goons out to collect on money Bruno owes but doesn’t have to repay them.

It’s after a lucky escape from these enforcers that he finds youngsters Sara (Anna Sophia Robb; The Bridge to Terabithia) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig; The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising) in the back of his taxi with a huge wad of cash and an urgent need to have him drive them out of town. Hmmm. Kids with big money? Even Bruno has scruples, and he’s not sure he wants to help a couple of runaways, but it isn’t long before the “kids” are able to convince Bruno that they are no ordinary children, if they are children at all.

Seth and Sara are aliens from another planet and their Race to Witch Mountain is all about saving mankind. Their planet’s atmosphere is so polluted the entire world has been dying for years and their military is now planning to invade Earth and eliminate the human population so they can make our world their own. What Seth and Sara have found is a way to quickly terraform their own planet and restore the atmosphere there so there would be no reason to invade Earth, but in order to stop the attack they need to retrieve their spacecraft, which our military has inconveniently stolen and moved to a top-secret facility in California, even more well-guarded than Area 51.

What Bruno wasn’t expecting in aiding the kids are the lengths a mysterious government organization is willing to go to capture these aliens alive for experimentation. Top man Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds; The Tale of Despereaux) is menacing in demeanor and voice as he orders agents Matheson (Tom Everett Scott; Glock), Carson (Billy Brown; Lakeview Terrace), and Pope (Chris Marquette; Infestation) about with cut-throat precision. Meanwhile, in a touch of Disney nostalgia, director Fickman has given a couple of terrific sympathetic supporting roles to familiar faces (sort of) from the first version of this story, 1975’s Escape to Witch Mountain. Sheriff Antony is played by the original space boy “Tony” Ike Eisenmann (The Hunchback of Notre Dame II) and the charming waitress willing to assist the kids and Jack in escaping the feds is none other than original space girl “Tina”, Kim Richards (Black Snake Moan). They are on hand to participate in what is one of several basic set action sequences designed to highlight the alien twins’ awesome powers, which include telepathy, levitation, and density manipulation.

The best of these moments takes place back in Las Vegas itself when Jack returns with the kids to find a UFO expert, Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino; Watchmen). Why so fun? She’s appearing at a Sci Fi convention where hundreds of colorful participants are dressed up as their favorite “aliens” and sci fi movie and tv characters. There are also those pesky federal agents in pursuit, the mobsters wanting their money back and one more unexpected addition ~ an assassin Siphon (cyborg) played by Tom Woodruff, Jr. (AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem), who has been sent by the military of Seth and Sara’s home world to make sure they never make it back alive. Oh boy!

Say what you will about Dwayne Johnson as an actor, I think he is just fine in this role. So many ridicule him for stepping out and past his days as “The Rock” to try his hand at a new career, but I am much more impressed with him playing a “real” guy than going the way Schwarzenegger did by donning the cod piece and playing Conan the Barbarian, which did nothing for Arnold’s credibility as an actor. Fortunately for him he had another career to fall back on. Anyway, Johnson keeps Race to Witch Mountain light enough to make the sinister moments not too intense for the younger kids to enjoy and he and Gugino have sweet chemistry together. All and all, this is the kind of film you can take the whole family to and know with confidence that everyone will enjoy it. I did, and I hope that, like the 1975 version, it will spawn a sequel or two. It’s not often I actually want a movie to reproduce, but this one is a gem. Just like my mother-in-law… (might be if you put her underground for a million years or so under tremendous pressure. With a heart of coal like hers, you just may get a diamond. Maybe. In the meantime, check out Race to Witch Mountain at the Essex Cinemas or the Cumberland 12.)

No comments: