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Race to Witch Mountain (2009) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
ImageDisney built part of its earlier movie franchise on the films, "Escape to Witch Mountain" and its sequel, "Return to Witch Mountain."  Each of the films came out in the mid to late 1970s.  Disney has resurrected the story of alien crash landings with "Race to Witch Mountain."  The film was not widely liked when it debuted in theaters early in 2009.  Nevertheless, there is something for everyone in the film.

Dwayne Johnson stars as Jack Bruno, as cab driver in Las Vegas.  He is an ex-convict that has turned the straight and arrow, mush to the dismay of his former crime boss employer.  Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Bruno picks up, unbeknownst to him at the time, two teenagers, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig).  Sara and Seth are siblings that have come to Earth from a planet 3,000 light years away.  After crashing landing somewhere much like infamous Roswell, Seth and Sara attempt to locate a device that can save their planet from invading and conquering Earth.

Bruno drives the teenagers out into the middle of nowhere.  Along they way they are being tracked by a secret government agency that is trying to capture the aliens.  When the kids get out of his cab at an abandoned house, Bruno's curiousity kicks in and he follows the kids into the house.  When secret pathways reveal a hidden chamber containing an experiment, an alien assassin that was sent to kill the kids strikes.  Bruno tries his best to defend the kids, still clueless about them being aliens.  The three narrowly escape from the assassin.  However, the assassin will not give up and continues his pursuit.

Meanwhile the government agency is also closing in on the aliens and Bruno.  Doubting that Bruno is going to help them, Seth and Sara are able to persuade Bruno to enlist the help of Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), someone that considers the possibility of aliens in a scientific manner.  It just so happens that the largest UFO nut convention is being held in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood.  Adding Alex to their team the four of them must find Sara and Seth's ship, which has been taken by the government, in order for them to get back to their home planet before it is too late.  The government is quick to fear the worst and does not give anyone the chance to explain.  The government is only keen on dissecting the aliens.

Bruno and Alex come to the rescue during the final showdown, which takes place at Witch Mountain, a not so hidden government facility containing the ship in question.

"Race to Witch Mountain" has a decent amount of action combined with fantasy elements.  The film does have some lulls and a bunch of contrived story elements, but it is still entertaining.  The film is good fun for the family, although little kids might not be able to get past the slow parts of the film.  Adults can find enjoyment in the quirky humor. AnnaSophia Robb is a breath of fresh air.  Having gained stardom with "The Reaping" and "Bridge to Terabithia," I expect to see much more of this adorable girl in future films.  Dwayne Johnson has pretty much solidified his presence in action/adventure films having stared in "The Scorpion King" and "The Rundown."

"Race to Witch Mountain" arrives in a 3-disc package and an MPEG-4/AVC video transfer.  The film comes in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  I have to admit that I expected more from the video transfer being a Disney title.  Sadly, I have been let down.  While the transfer is generally good, there are inconsistencies overall.  Shadow delineation is most problematic.  It has its moments, but overall the details are lost in the shadows and the darkness gloms together to form a crushed black area.  The contrast and brightness levels are fairly decent.  Whites are not overblown.  Edges are good overall, however there are times in which the edge enhancement becomes evident.  Being a recent film the transfer does not suffer from artifacting or print noise.  The color palette is rather bland.  The image never pops from the screen, even during the brightly lit and colorful expectation of Las Vegas casinos.  This is a good Blu-ray transfer, but far from the great transfers of modern films on Blu-ray.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The audio is very solid, but not as immersive as I would have liked.  Discreet effects pop in the surround channels here and there.  The soundfield is never completely enveloping.  The LFE is solid.  Sometimes is becomes a little too boomy, but it is nicely represented in many calmer sequences where the LFE is not expected.  Dialogue is clean and strong in the center channel.  Dynamics never stretch very far, even during the action sequences.  Bullets and ricochets are not panned the best, but there is some clarity in those sequences.

The film comes in a 3-disc package, but really doesn't come with as many special features as you might think.  The first disc is a Blu-ray, containing the feature film, deleted scenes, bloopers and a featurette that goes through the references in the film to the original film.  That's all.  There is no audio commentary or picture-in-picture track.

The second disc is a standard DVD of the film.  The third disc is a Digital Copy of the film.  That's it.

"Race to Witch Mountain" is entertaining and family fun.  It has something for everyone, but also has problems for everyone.  The audio and video transfers are solid, but are not up to par with other Disney Blu-ray transfers and for modern film releases.

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