A Look at “Race to Witch Mountain” (2009) … and some thoughts
I’ve been badgered into not keeping my thoughts to those in my immediate presence about film, so now I have to write about them. Here’s the first in what I’m assured will be an ongoing series.
RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (2009)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43% critic / 44% audience
First of all, I want to state that I do not have any inherent disapproval of someone or some studio wanting to remake, reboot, or just plain redo an older film.** This especially goes for films that I hold dear to me in one form or another, whether it be from near worship or just really, really fond memories.
My feelings towards the original “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975) and “Return from With Mountain” (1978) fall into the fond memories. I saw both of these films at a drive-in when they came out, because my parents liked me enough to take me. I had a huge crush on Kim Richards, because she was all shades of cute and awesome – at least to my 8-10 year old self. They were fun, escapist fare, and while no t.v. Star Trek, it did have Eddie Albert to go along with it. It even had Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard before Dukes even existed! So, yeah, there’s some fond memories that go along with these films.
So now to current day. I seriously love me some Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s one of the few deeply charismatic actors that manage their humour, but have more within them that shows. Doesn’t matter if he’s doing “The Tooth Fairy” or “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” he brings an enjoyment of making the movie along with him that just makes what he’s in that much more entertaining.
Unfortunately, that did nothing to help with “Race to Witch Mountain.”
The use of the normally always wonderful Carla Gugino did nothing. The lacklustre characters that AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig had to work with was almost criminal. Quite a few other actors of note were in it, most of whom usually do supporting characters well, were just wasted. A by-the-numbers script didn’t leave director Andy Fickman much to work with.
The worst culprit, and I think it’s safe to say this, is whomever decided that this script/story was a good idea for a reboot. I get that it’s budget wasn’t a large one. It’s easy enough to tell this kind of story without a large amount of money to tell it. Some of the set pieces were interesting, but considering the source material was predominately family-oriented, it says something when the action set pieces scare an 8-year old girl. And even worse, by the time the movie is over it leaves three people – ages 8, 12, and 47 – all with the opinion that the film was “meh.”
It’s incredibly easy to Monday morning quarterback any piece of literature – film, t.v., art, written – but sometimes you can just *see* that what you have is not going to work the way you think it’s going to. This should have been apparent during the writing process of “Race.” It strikes me that if you’re Disney, and you’re going to producing a reboot of a family-oriented film, then you should keep in mind that a certain share of the market you’re aiming for is, you know, kids. That all important quality of “family-oriented.” Write things that make kids want to say more than “meh” at your final product. And keep in mind that no matter what they may act like at times, most kids are not dumb – they can see through fakery and half-assing it.
This lack of caring for the target audience is frustrating to the writer in me: it’s like how can you not see the car/train wreck coming? What kind of interference did the writers get from the producers? (“We need a really bang up car chase because ACTION!” or “We need a really cool special effects scene to happen about here in the film. Can you come up with something in a tunnel and small cave? We don’t have much budget for an actual set but we can effects the s**t out of it!”) Were the writers given parameters to start with, aside from updating the original novel or film adaptation?
Having had a low budget feature made from a script I co-wrote does lend me a different perspective to something after I’ve seen it. But “Race to Witch Mountain” left ‘meh’ in the cold, with a lot to be desired.
Have to give it a rating? D. Have to give it stars? 2 out of 5. It seriously wasn’t a bad film. But I’d rather a film be horribly bad in the end than just meh, because meh isn’t that memorable.
Reasons *to* see it? Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino. Two pros bringing what they can to lacklustre roles.