What happens when you take a beloved Disney classic about the love between alien siblings, Witch Mountain, and replace it with video game antics and The Rock? Race to spoilers, below.
As a harmonica carrying fan of Disney's classic Witch Mountain movies, I was tickled when I found out they were going all rebooty with the alien siblings. Finally, today's kids would see what a classic family movie with a little heart, a lot of cheese, and a good moral lesson in the end, was all about.
Unfortunately, most of the warmth from the original had to be updated and rejiggered to entertain the modern-day masses. Gone are the heart-to-heart family chats, to make room for explosions and a super space bounty-hunter who looks like the bastard son of Master Chief and Boba Fett. But thankfully (and I can't believe I'm writing this) the rebooted film's star, The Rock, saves the day.
All the goods for a modern day Witch Mountain are included. Two kids are lost on the planet Earth, where they meet the rough-and-tumble Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson). This hard on the outside, soft on the inside cliche takes the prepubescent tykes under his wing, once he discovers that they have crazy mind powers, and are being chased by a black ops government division that wants to cut them up first and ask questions later (led by Rome's Ciarán Hinds). The trio pick up a dog along the way, plus Carla Gugino, who takes on the role of a frazzled astrophysicist who knows just what to do to save the day.
But the cast failed to hit the mark for me, and the film would have been a total wash had Johnson not stepped in and upped the ante.
Between yelling at the junkyard dog and rolling his eyes at the scrapes those crazy kids get him into, Johnson is the heart of this film. You really care about the gigantic man and what happens to him next, more so than the kids. In fact when the kids are actually in the clutches of the evil government agency, I was more worried that Rock would get hurt and not the little ETs.
I used to believe that when Dwayne Johnson is the best part of any film, that proves the film's in big trouble. But I was always entertained, even when the strained chemistry between Gugino and him made me wince for 15 minutes straight. Johnson is a song and dance/entertainer kind of guy, and I really enjoyed watching him save the day over and over and over again. We traded our dynamic duo of g-rated aliens who wear little red suits and save the day with their brains, for a ex-driver for the mob who yells at a dog.
Dwayne Johnson carries this movie on his massive shoulders. And it's entirely thanks to him that Disney most likely has a shot to make another Witch Mountain, and maybe this time with a little more heart. I would go see him again, he was adorable and so were his "'I'm too tough for this" antics.
Sadly I wish they would have backed off a little from the FX oversaturation just a tad. Often times it felt more like a movie created to fill a roller-coaster void on the Magical Kingdom lot, and less like a considerate revamping of a treasured kid's movie. But who knows if kids these days can even be entertained with a tiny harmonica and dancing puppets. I sure as heck was (granted, it was more of a make-the-dancing-puppets-stop terror, but nevertheless I was completely captivated).
So while I was sad to see my Witch Mountain race towards the big boom and farther away from the original's endearing story line of two siblings fighting together against all odds, it was inevitable that it would go this way. So once you let go of the fact that these alien children talk like robots and don't have the same dependency issues as their predecessors, it's a pretty fun ride.
Bottom line: If you have kids, take 'em. They'll be entertained, and you'll laugh a few times. Sure the movie gets a little heavy on the kiddie violence, but I'm guessing they're pretty desensitized to all that by now.