THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE Carla Gugino, Anna-Sophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig and Dwayne Johnson star in ‘Race To Witch Mountain’.
A cabbie and two aliens
ALMOST everyone has a taxi story. Mine dates from two years ago. It was just before the 2007 general election, and nobody does rage against politicians quite like a cab driver. I was going to a wedding in east Galway and was picked up by a self-confessed tax dodger. Having explained that ‘I got caught for one of those offshore things a couple of years ago’, my 70-something chauffeur then launched a vituperative attack on the Labour Party. “I wouldn’t put Pat Rabbitte in charge of Duffy’s circus,” he said, among many other things.
Still, angry right-wing taxi-drivers are ten-a-penny. Alien passengers are rather more rare, as are 500 per cent tips. But both feature in ‘Race To Witch Mountain’, as Las Vegas cabbie Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) ends up in the ride of his life with two extra-terrestrials in the back seat.
Johnson, better known in his wrestling days as ‘The Rock’, is a likeable lead. He has a great face, and effectively plays the straight man as two teens, Sara (Anna-Sophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), appear in the back of his cab requesting a ride to the middle of nowhere. A couple of near-death experiences later, it becomes clear that Sara and Seth are from another planet, and that both an alien assassin and the US government are out to get them. Oh, and the survival of earth depends on their safe return to their native land. Obviously.
Yes, we’re in well-trodden territory here, and like the recent ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, ‘Race To Witch Mountain’ is a remake of an older motion picture. It’s all nonsense of course, but it’s good old-fashioned hokum. There’s a nice mix of exposition and action – the car chases are decent, and there’s one great car-jacking. The script takes itself a bit seriously – it could do with a few more decent jokes – and the effects aren’t exactly top-drawer. But Andy Fickman’s picture avoids some of the pitfalls befalling too many would-be blockbusters these days.
It seems a self-evident point, but many recently-released movies ignore motivation and leave giant plot holes – I counted five in ‘17 Again’ before I stopped totting them up. So it makes a pleasant change to go to the cinema in the presence of a main character you can root for, and for reasons you can understand. Johnson does a good line in deadpan humour, as when he tells the children: “Easy on the human-bashing, okay? Some of my best friends are human.” It’s rather more difficult to care about the siblings from outer space, who are straight from central casting.
Carla Gugino, one of the few half-decent things about the horrendous Pacino-De Niro vehicle ‘Righteous Kill’, turns up as Alex Friedman. Jack enlists her help because of her interest in aliens from a scientific perspective, and she gives astrophysics a good name after the profession was brought into disrepute by Nicolas Cage’s recent turn in ‘Knowing’.
Belfast-born Ciaran Hinds, perhaps best remembered for his role as John Traynor in ‘Veronica Guerin’, is suitably sinister as Henry Burke, the government agent intent on capturing the alien kids. The spirit of ‘The X-Files’ is, it seems, alive and well.
‘Race To Witch Mountain’ isn’t ET. Children aren’t going to get teary-eyed watching it for decades to come. But there are far worse ways of spending just over 90 minutes. In football terms, it may not be a 4-4 draw. But it’s not a scoreless bore either.
Race to witch mountain
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