Race to Witch Mountain
|Race to Witch Mountain|
|Directed by||Andy Fickman|
|Produced by||Andrew Gunn|
|Written by||Andy Fickman
Tom Everett Scott
|Music by||Trevor Rabin|
|Edited by||David Rennie|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios
|Running time||98 minutes|
|Box office||$105 million|
Race to Witch Mountain is a 2009 science fiction/thriller film and a continuation to the 1975 Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain. (There was also a version made in 1995 with a different cast and several details changed or omitted). All three versions of the film are based on the 1968 novel Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key. The film is directed by Andy Fickman and stars Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Ciarán Hinds, and Carla Gugino.
Filming began in Los Angeles in March 2008. It was released on March 13, 2009.
A UFO crash lands near Searchlight, Nevada near Las Vegas. The incident is picked up by Project Moon Dust, a secret Defense Department unit led by Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds), who begins looking for the ship's passengers.
In Las Vegas former mob get-away driver Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) works as a cab driver to avoid returning to jail. One of his passengers is Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), a failed scientist who is in town to speak at a UFO convention at the Planet Hollywood hotel.
After resisting two thugs who seek his services for a mob boss, Bruno finds two teenagers, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), in his cab. They offer $15,000 to drive to a certain destination. Burke's men follow the cab; Bruno believing them to be more mob thugs, evades them but more pursue them. Seth uses his ability to vary his molecular density to help them escape.
When they arrive at an abandoned house, Bruno follows them inside out of concern and curiosity. The teenagers retrieve a device from within a hidden underground laboratory, but the three are attacked by a "Siphon" (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), a powerful armored alien assassin. Seth is knocked unconscious by a strong blast before they escape into the cab, the Siphon pursing in its ship. They momentarily avoid the hunter's sensors by hiding in a train tunnel and Bruno demands to know what is going on. Seth refuses to answer believing humans to be untrustworthy while Sera disagrees. Jack starts to drive over a bridge, and the hunter reappears and attacks again. They enter another tunnel and cause the hunter to crash into a train and be destroyed, Sara's powers allowing them to avoid the collision themselves. Meanwhile Burke and his men discover the lab and become aware that someone else is in pursuit of the kids as well.
Jack demands answers and the kids reveal that they are in fact aliens, sent to Earth to retrieve something. He doesn't believe them at first but is convinced by Sara's demonstration of her powers, convincing him to help. Meanwhile, the Siphon survives the impact from his ship, and is slowly repairing his suit.
Stopping in a town Sara uses her abilities to help Jack convince the local mechanic (Cheech Marin) to repair their cab. Burke and his men are able to find them using the LoJack tracking device on the cab. Surrounding the restaurant they are waiting in, he gives Jack an ultimatum. Instead of turning them in, however, Jack gets the attention of a local sheriff and his men, causing a standoff between the two. The group is able to escape in the confusion.
Unsure of what to do next Sara suggests they return to Las Vegas and approach Alex Friedman, the scientist Jack picked up earlier. Bruno brings Seth and Sara to Dr. Friedman at the UFO convention, who realizes that the teenagers are what she has been searching for and joins the group. There, the teenagers explain to Bruno and Friedman that they are from a dying world many light years from Earth. Its government plans to invade Earth to ensure their race's survival. Seth and Sara's parents are scientists who sought to save their planet without invasion but were arrested before completing their experiments. The teenagers came to retrieve the successful results, but the alien government sent the assassin to stop them. To save both worlds, they must retrieve their spaceship and return home. Fellow UFOlogist and conspiracy theorist Dr. Donald Harlan (Garry Marshall) tells them that the spaceship was taken to the secret California government base Witch Mountain. The group arrives at the base, but are captured; Burke orders that the teenagers be prepared for vivisection, but lets Bruno and Friedman go, knowing that no one will believe their story.
The Siphon attacks Witch Mountain and battles the soldiers, allowing Bruno and Friedman to infiltrate the base and free Seth and Sara. They launch the ship, escape through the mountain's tunnels, and finally kill the assassin who has stowed away on the spaceship. The teenagers give Bruno and Friedman a tracking device that will allow the aliens to always find them, tearfully wish them farewell, and return to their home world, hoping to help rebuild it somehow.
Bruno and Friedman become successful authors of Race to Witch Mountain: A True Story. They promote their book and knowledge on the UFO convention circuit, explaining that the publicity protects them from government reprisal. As they leave a convention the alien device activates, implying that Seth and Sara may be returning to Earth.
- Dwayne Johnson as Jack Bruno who is a Las Vegas cab driver, a former convict. The director wrote in a cab driver as a main character because there was a unique relationship between the driver and his passengers. Fickman explained, "When Dwayne's driving and two aliens appear in his cab, he's stuck with them, there is an implied contract that I will get you to your destination, because that's what he does." This is Dwayne Johnson's second Disney film, the first one being the 2007 family comedy film The Game Plan, also directed by Andy Fickman.
- AnnaSophia Robb as Sara, sister of Seth, a girl with telekinetic and telepathic powers. Fickman chose Robb based on her performance in Bridge to Terabithia. She is very kind to Bruno and is the more compassionate of the two siblings. The only time she does not refer to Jack by his full name (Jack Bruno) is when she says goodbye to him, when she refers to him only as "Jack".
- Alexander Ludwig as Seth, brother of Sara, a boy with the power to control his molecular density - "phasing" and becoming very dense to some degree of invulnerability. He is very cold to Bruno at first, not trusting him very much, but apologizes in the end saying that if it were not for him they would have not finished their mission. Both siblings talk using overly formal, emotionless voices, and are always addressing Bruno by both his first and last name in all situations.
- Ciarán Hinds as Henry Burke, Leader of Project Moon Dust. He is very sarcastic and unscrupulous, having no regard to morality as demonstrated after Seth and Sare are imprisoned in Witch Mountain when he orders them to be experimented on so he can harness their powers, regardless of the possibility that they could die. As long as he gets results, whether they live or die does not matter to him. Hinds described his character as a man in black, explaining, "I'm the head of the operation who's contacted directly by a man you never see...[It] is about protecting the country. He's responsible for it, and he'll do whatever needs to be done. That's how he sees it."
- Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman, a discredited astrophysicist. Fired from her university, she is relegated to giving a lecture at a UFO conference about hard science. She is named for Stanton T. Friedman, the Nuclear Physicist and noted Ufologist. She also becomes Jack's love interest. Fickman cast Gugino into the role since he was a fan of the short-lived television series Threshold, in which the actress starred.
- Tom Woodruff, Jr. as The Siphon, A well-trained alien assassin.
- Garry Marshall as 'Harlan' a friend of Alex's and an author of books who thinks he can "tell when people are lying to me". He is seen tricking Burke into going after him by trading cars with Jack.
- Cheech Marin as Eddie Cortez, the auto mechanic who gets frustrated when people come to his shop in the middle of the night, when it is closed.
- Chris Marquette as Pope.
- William J. Birnes, the host of UFO Hunters, in a cameo.
- Whitley Strieber, author of Communion, in a cameo.
Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, who portrayed Tia and Tony in the original Witch Mountain films of the 1970s, made cameo appearances in Race to Witch Mountain. Richards appears as a roadhouse waitress (named "Tina," a minor change from the character [Tia] she played in the 1975 and 1978 films) and Eisenmann appears as Sheriff Anthony. In addition, Meredith Salenger, the star of Disney's 1985 adventure The Journey of Natty Gann has a cameo as a TV reporter named "Natalie Gann." 
In July 2007, Walt Disney Pictures hired Andy Fickman to direct Witch Mountain, a "modern re-imagining" of Escape to Witch Mountain, using a script by Matt Lopez. The following August, Dwayne Johnson (most notably famous for portraying The Rock in the WWE) was cast into a lead role, with filming scheduled to begin in March 2008. Fickman did not describe the film as a remake, defining his production as "a new chapter within the world of Witch Mountain". The director also described the book, in which the films are based as "a very cool dark thriller" and anticipated drawing elements from it that did not exist in the 1975 film. By March 2008, filmmakers were using a new script written by Mark Bomback. The film was re-titled Race to Witch Mountain, and it began filming in Los Angeles in the same month.
The convention center in Pomona, California was converted into the film's UFO Expo 9, and the interior of Witch Mountain was designed using photographs from a tour of NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain. A cabin for the story was also built in Agua Dulce, California. The director sought assistance from UFO experts, the military, and CIA advisers to shape the elements of the film. He also introduced a new element in the remake, an extraterrestrial creature called Siphon. The creature was conceived by the design team who created the looks for Alien and Predator in the film Alien vs Predator.
Offspring song "Stuff is Messed Up" and Future World Music song "Heart Of Fury" were used in promos for the movie. The score to Race to Witch Mountain was composed by Trevor Rabin, who recorded his score with a 78-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony and a 24-person choir at the Sony Scoring Stage. Two of the songs in the film were written and performed by country and western band Brokedown Cadillac, which appears briefly in an opening scene.
Race to Witch Mountain was released on DVD and Blu-ray August 4, 2009 in three different sets; first, a single disc containing a wide-screen version of the film with no bonus features; second, a Deluxe-Edition that contains deleted scenes as well as other bonus features and a Digital Copy; third, a Blu-ray release with the same extras as the Deluxe Edition, along with a DVD copy of the film and a Digital Copy in the Blu-ray format.
Reviews for Race to Witch Mountain have been mixed. Based on 74 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 42% rating from critics, with an average score of 5.1/10. Metacritic the film has received an average score of 50, based on 23 reviews.
Despite the mixed outcome, the film turned out to be a box office hit. It became the first Disney film in 2009 to open at #1, grossing $24.4 million. The film would go on to gross over $67 million at the North American domestic box office, and over $39 million internationally, for a total of $106 million.
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