Women On Film – “Race To Witch Mountain” – Susan Granger reviews

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Tweens and their families are flocking to this Disney remake for good reason: it’s light-hearted, diverting entertainment. Plus there’s surprisingly weak competition at the multi-plex right now.

The adventure begins in the Nevada desert where a UFO has landed. The U.S. military scrambles and Burke (Ciaran Hinds), a Homeland Security agent, is determined to secure the “illegal aliens.” Meanwhile, in nearby Las Vegas, ex-con taxi-driver Jack Bruno (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) picks up Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), an astrophysicist who’s in town lecturing at a UFO convention.

While Bruno dismisses those who believe in extraterrestrials as “nut jobs,” the next day, he happens upon siblings Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), whose shape-shifting, telekinetic and telepathic abilities soon prove him wrong. After some ferocious high-speed chases and narrow escapes, with the robotic youngsters calmly murmuring, “It would appear we have not evaded them,” hot-shot driver Bruno is convinced that his passengers are not runaways but really aliens whose craft has been seized by Burke’s SWAT team and moved to a top-secret government installation hidden inside Witch Mountain. Plus there’s this nasty, intergalactic assassin, known as a Siphon, who’s pursuing them from their home planet.

Will Bruno and Dr. Friedman help the young space travelers reclaim their craft, go home and save their planet as well as Earth? You guess.

Inspired by Alexander Kay’s novel, which previously spawned “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975) and “Return to Witch Mountain” (1978), Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback’s script is more action-oriented than its predecessors although devotees may spot the original child stars, Kim Richards and Iake Eissinmann, in cameos. Directed by Andy Fickman, it’s obviously contrived – but it’s also amusing, particularly with director/actor Garry Marshall as a rival extraterrestrial expert. Real-life cult writer Whitley Strieber (“Communion”) also attends the “You Will Believe” conference.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Race to Witch Mountain” is an appealing, escapist 7 – it’s cornball sci-fi fun.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.