Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has made some serious leaps in his career. From wrestling superstar to action-film star to a co-star for pre-teen kids. Race to Witch Mountain marks Johnson’s second take at a movie in which he helps a child, but this time the child is actually a sibling duo from another planet rather than his own daughter, and the enemy isn’t his own personal demons, but a Predator-like assassin who’s out to kill the alien tykes. Oh, and the U.S. government officials who are trying to cover-up the existence of aliens.
If the plot for Race to Witch Mountain sounds a bit far-fetched, that’s because it is. However, the movie’s tongue-in-cheek reliance on an extraterrestrial ‘geek convention’ in Las Vegas provides enough levity to keep viewers engaged, and Johnson’s balance of Predator-whopping badass and kid-friendly hero fits his role well. The special effects are also surprisingly effective, both because they generally look fantastic (aside from a few cheap-looking fake alien cocoons) and aren’t so over the top that they feel like Michael Bay trying to compensate for something.
Of course, with those great visuals comes the need for great video quality, and Race to Witch Mountain Blu-ray delivers in spades. Action films often look great in 1080p, but genre-straddling films like Race to With Mountain can be iffy. Fortunately, Disney’s 1080p presentation of this film gets the job done from opening credits to fade to black, with interior, exterior, daytime and nighttime shots all crisp and high-contrast. The only graphical downfall comes in certain scenes in which dark foreground objects blend into dark mid-range and background objects, which makes it hard to distinguish between depths sometimes. For the most part, though, these scenes are few and far between, as most of the film takes place outdoors during the day or inside a bustling Vegas backdrop that by its very nature provides interesting and diverse imagery.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is also largely good, although there are occasional balance issues between the sound effects and dialogue. The rear-channel support is particularly noteworthy, as it provides enough immersion without being overdone, and enough nuanced audio that it doesn’t feel as though the sound engineers just cranked the volume to those channels and called it a day.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray bonus features for Race to Witch Mountain The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.
don’t hold up as well as its multimedia aspects. This is especially odd (and noticeable) for two reasons. First, the Blu-ray release of Race to Witch Mountain contains three discs: the Blu-ray Disc, a DVD and the Disney Digital Copy version. The Costco mentality in all of us, then, presumes that “more discs means more stuff,” which isn’t the case here. Second, there’s an eight-minute Blu-ray exclusive feature pointing out references to the original movie, but this BD-exclusive feature only brings the total featurette count up to three. The other two, a Deleted Scenes and Blooper Reel, aren’t exactly Earth-shatteringly entertaining, though they are good enough to warrant watching. The Deleted Scenes each have director’s introductions, which stretches that feature to 23 minutes, but since the movie isn’t a classic, the introductions feel more like filler than truly vital/informative.
The movie clearly takes center stage in this package, and considering the film’s lukewarm theatrical response, one can hardly fault Disney for not tossing two discs’ worth of bonus features at its Blu-ray release. Race to Witch Mountain is a fun film that won’t knock anyone in the family off their feet but also will keep everyone in the house from feeling forced to watch a film they don’t like. And while multimedia buffs will certainly find faults with the finer points of the video and audio, Race to Witch Mountain certainly has enough junk in its trunk to leave home-theater fans pleased with the end result. Take it for a spin; whatever “the Rock” is cooking for this film is tasty enough to sample it.
- Score: 7.8
— Jonas Allen