Saturday, March 14, 2009
The Rock and company may be game, but the race turns out to be less a game than a drudgery.
A victim of its own desire to have Dwayne Johnson's crowd-pleasing macho element sub for the youthful innocence of its young protagonists (and even for the amiable charisma of Johnson himself), "Race to Witch Mountain" loses much of the sweetness in this re-imagining of a 1970s adventure tale that starts amusingly enough but ultimately never comes across as more than a turgidly forgettable family fare.
Ex-con Jack Bruno (Johnson) is trying to attain a clean slate by living a reformed life as a Las Vegas cab driver when he inadvertently becomes the chauffeur of two young passengers (AnnaSophia Robb and Ludwig) who show him a big wad of cash to drive them out of the city.
It turns out that the juvenile customers are superpowered aliens out to save the Earth from an imminent invasion by their kind, and the only way to prevent the planet from being taken over by an intellectually superior extraterrestrial race is if Jack, along with an ardent astrophysicist (Carla Gugino), successfully guides these kids to the mysterious Witch Mountain past a joyless baddie (Ciarán Hinds) and his military men.
To get there, however, means having to endure a tedious chase punctuated by flat action setpieces so perfunctorily packaged as a merchandise to fit every member of the audience, where everyone gets a dumbed-down sample but no one gets the real dose.
Director Andy Finkman was responsible for the highly forgettable "The Game Plan" which, if nothing else, got Johnson into a tree costume; no surprise, then, that here, in what seems to be an attempt to buff up the former wrestling star again, diminishes Johnson's everyman appeal and Robb's likable presence into mere players in a race that never gains enough momentum.