New ‘Witch Mountain’ is an escape for kids, adults alike | TahoeDailyTribune.com

New ‘Witch Mountain’ is an escape for kids, adults alike

Howie Nave / Special to Lake Tahoe Action

In this film still released by Disney, actors, from left, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig and Dwayne Johnson are shown in a scene from "Race to Witch Mountain." (AP Photo/Disney, Ron Phillips) ** NO SALES **

Sometimes the best part about watching a hit Disney movie is that you can expect a new ride at their theme parks. Such is the case with Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean,” even though that was a ride first, then the successful movie trilogy.

Once again, Disney has given us a thrill ride coupled with max escapism, all centered around a hidden UFO, space aliens, killer special effects all rolled into one family movie. Oh yeah, the kids are the stars, even though Duane “The Rock” Johnson gets top billing. The only thing missing was a surprise appearance by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to give us his belief whether extraterrestrials reside in Area 51, since it does fall into his constituency.

Yes, it’s another remake, and you know my feelings about those ” especially when the original is also in color and still worth renting. Probably one of the reasons I did like this one is because of the UFO angle. I wish they could have lost the title, though: It’s misleading and conjures up images of pirates. This one does borrow from the 1975 original, “Escape to Witch Mountain,” albeit with so many changes it really could just stand on its own.

The new version is literally out of this world, with Disney taking a huge leap of faith pushing its PG rating. It’s not too often you get a sci-fi flick that could easily be marketed toward adults, and then there are the guns. The family entertainment giant would using firearms in a movie will definitely surprise a few parents. The original had some guns, but the bad guys never actually used them.

The big gun this time though is Johnson, who has been feeling quite at home with the Disney folks lately. Although it’s not a great Disney flick, “The Game Plan” (2007) had its moments, and audiences loved it, so who needs film critics?

As in the original “Witch Mountain,” we have a brother-and-sister team (Alexander Ludwig and AnnaSophia Robb) who appear to look human but aren’t, and possesses special powers. Las Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno (Johnson) happens to become their ride. What happens in Vegas does not stay there: The kids have to get to their crashed spacecraft before assassins take them out.

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The main assassin is a hit-man (or -alien) along with some others dispatched to capture not only the teenagers but Jack as well. Jack has some major grown-up problems of his own. So, yeah, there is a lot happening in this movie, but that makes it all the more exciting.

As farfetched as it sounds, the multiple plot scenarios make “Race to Witch Mountain” a very fast-paced thriller with plenty of action and cool special effects. Director Andy Fickman might not have a lot of movies under his belt, but he knows how to bring out the strengths of his actors, particularly Johnson, whom he also directed in “The Game Plan.”

Johnson has successfully gone the route of other big-name stars who seem to like being in family-friendly movies instead of R-rated flicks. Maybe it’s because he was tired of being in movies that showcased his wrestling and realized that he couldn’t make a long-lasting career as an aging action figure. Just ask Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis.

At least Arnold Schwarzenegger was able to parlay his action-hero status into a governorship. Plus he has a daughter and wants to start making movies he would take his family to.