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Originally Posted on STARLOG

The recent cavalcade of remakes has started filtering down to family films of late, though it’s by all means not a new thing for Disney. Having mined their live-action vaults for reboots of THE PARENT TRAP, HERBIE, etc. over the years, it was only a matter of time before the WITCH MOUNTAIN series received a big-budget revival.

Just released on DVD & Blu-Ray this week (reviewed here from the limited 3-Disc DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy Combo Pack) is RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN.

Unlike the original film, gone are Eddie Albert and the Winnebago (though the latter does appear at one point) in favor of Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) as Jack Bruno, a felon and wheelman for the Las Vegas mob, who now spends his days driving tourists up and down the Vegas strip in a Yellow Cab. Upon picking up a couple of kids with a massive gangster roll of cash and being instructed to drive them to a remote location somewhere in the Nevada desert, Bruno believes he’s being set up by his former employer, while the reality is out of this world.

The children of course are the aliens (revealed in the trailers, and much earlier in RACE than ESCAPE), and the pursuers are not the Mob, but the U.S. Government. Toss in a intergalactic bounty hunter with his sights set on the kids, and the race is definitely on.

While RACE is distinctively aimed at kids, the film spends a great deal of time attempting to cater to the STARLOG crowd with it’s not-so-subtle nods to genre films from years past. Early on there’s a couple of drunken STORMTROOPERS that hire Bruno to take them to a sci-fi convention, and then there’s Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman, a UFO expert that just happens to be speaking at the same convention – and just happens to take a ride in Bruno’s cab, making her the obvious target when he finally realizes that his passengers are not of this earth.

The kids are on a simple mission to get their spacecraft back, kept hidden by the Government inside Witch Mountain, and with everyone in pursuit, the action is fast and chaotic. One semi-climactic battle takes place within the PLANET HOLLYWOOD HOTEL & CASINO, set against the backdrop of the previously mentioned Sci-Fi Convention. Ironically, it feels almost exactly like a similar set-up in the recent spoof SUPERHERO MOVIE, which featured a showdown inside a small Comic-Con.

Overall, the film is fun, though adults will likely feel it’s a one-time watch. Kids on the other hand, will enjoy the fast-paced action and bright special FX for repeat viewings, along with all the tired action cliches that RACE uses in a manner almost hinting to the children that they’ll be seeing in more adult fare as they get older. A wink-wink cameo from former child star Kim Richards (the original Tia from the earlier films) as a waitress is fun (and not nearly as awkward as those in films like STARSKY & HUTCH), but the meaning will be missed by anyone that’s never seen the original works.

As for the disc itself, the combo pack is well-worth the extra few bucks even if you do not currently own a Blu-ray player, as the additional materials, crisp picture, and added digital copy ensure playablity for years to come. For parents wishing to introduce their children to the earlier films (also available on DVD), the Blu-ray offers a neat feature entitled “Which Mountain?” that reveals all the nods to the original films.

For Kids: 2.5 out of 4

For Adults: 2 out of 4