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Race to Witch Mountain

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Race to Witch Mountain
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndy Fickman
Screenplay by
Story byMatt Lopez
Based onEscape to Witch Mountain
by Alexander Key
Produced byAndrew Gunn
CinematographyGreg Gardiner
Edited byDavid Rennie
Music byTrevor Rabin
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • March 11, 2009 (2009-03-11) (Egypt)
  • March 13, 2009 (2009-03-13) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$106.4 million[2]

Race to Witch Mountain is a 2009 American science fiction adventure thriller film directed by Andy Fickman. The film stars Dwayne Johnson in the lead role, with AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Ciarán Hinds, and Carla Gugino.[3] It is a reboot of the Witch Mountain franchise.

Jack Bruno, a Las Vegas taxi driver, must get extraterrestrials Seth and Sara to their spaceship on Witch Mountain before government agents and an assassin can catch up to them.

Race to Witch Mountain was theatrically released on March 13, 2009, in the United States, through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film was a box-office success, grossing $106.4 million worldwide against a production budget of $50 million.



An alien spacecraft crashes near Searchlight, Nevada, 45 miles outside of Las Vegas. Project Moon Dust, a secret Defense Department unit led by Henry Burke, reach the scene of the crash in black helicopters. Men in black seize the spaceship and search for its passengers to harness their DNA and powers.

In Vegas, former mob getaway driver Jack Bruno works as a taxi cab driver to avoid returning to jail. One of his passengers is failed astrophysicist Dr. Alex Friedman, who has come to Vegas to speak at a UFO convention at the Planet Hollywood hotel.

After fending off two thugs who seek his services for mob boss Andrew Wolfe, Bruno finds two teenagers, Sara and Seth, in his cab. They offer $15,000 to drive them to an unknown destination. Burke's men track down the teenagers (who turn out to be the spaceship's passengers) through various discoveries such as stolen clothes, a car being burglarized, a bus heading to Las Vegas, and an ATM being deprived of all of its contents, which eventually pinpoints their location in Bruno's taxi. They engage Bruno in a chase. Mistaking the government agents for more mob thugs, he tries to evade them. Seth's ability to vary his molecular density, as well as Sara's telepathy and telekinesis, helps the group to escape.

When they arrive at an abandoned house, Bruno follows them out of concern and curiosity. The teenagers retrieve the device they were looking for within a hidden underground laboratory, but the three are attacked by the "Siphon", an armored alien assassin. The Siphon pursues them until its spaceship crashes into a train and the creature is wounded.

Bruno brings Seth and Sara to Friedman at the UFO convention. Despite initially dismissing Bruno's story, she believes him after Seth and Sara show off their powers and narrate their current situation: they are aliens from a dying planet located 3,000 light years from Earth and can travel by using wormholes on their spaceships. Its government intends to invade Earth, despite the majority of their race being fully opposed to the plan, so that their kind may survive. Seth and Sara's parents are scientists who sought a way to save their planet without invasion, but were arrested before completing their experiment. The teenagers came to retrieve the successful results, but the alien government (who still plans on invading Earth rather than trying to save their home planet) sent the Siphon to stop them. To prevent the invasion from happening and save both worlds, they must retrieve their spaceship and return home with the results.

Realizing that the teenagers are what she has been searching for, Friedman joins the group. They meet fellow UFOlogist and conspiracy theorist Dr. Donald Harlan, who reveals that the spaceship was taken to Witch Mountain, a secret US government base. Harlan and his men distract the soldiers with Bruno's taxi while the others escape to Witch Mountain in Harlan's RV after evading the Siphon. The group arrives at the base, but are captured by Burke. He orders that the teenagers be prepared for vivisection, but frees the adults, confident that nobody will believe them.

The Siphon attacks Witch Mountain and engages 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 kill the Siphon, 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. They tearfully wish them farewell, but not before Sara gives her telepathic powers to Bruno.

Weeks later, Bruno and Friedman become successful authors of a book named 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 the convention, the alien device activates, implying that the alien teenagers may be returning to Earth.


  • Dwayne Johnson as Jack Bruno, who is a Las Vegas cab driver and a former convict.[4] 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."[5] This is Johnson's second Disney film, following 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.[6] Fickman chose Robb based on her performance as Leslie Burke in Bridge to Terabithia. She is 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".[7]
  • Alexander Ludwig as Seth, brother of Sara, a boy with the power to control his molecular density – "phasing" to become very dense, evidently giving him some degree of invulnerability, or become insubstantial and pass through solid objects. 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, and analytical voices, and are always addressing Bruno by both his first and last name in all situations.[6]
  • Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman,[5] a discredited astrophysicist.[6] Fired from her university, she is relegated to giving a lecture at a UFO conference about hard science. She becomes Jack's love interest.[8] Fickman cast Gugino in the role as he was a fan of the short-lived television series Threshold, in which the actress starred.[9]
  • Ciarán Hinds as Henry Burke, the leader of Project Moon Dust. Sarcastic and unscrupulous, he has no regard for morality, as demonstrated after Seth and Sara 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.[10] 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."[8]
  • Tom Woodruff Jr. as The Siphon, a well-trained alien assassin.
  • Garry Marshall as Dr. Donald Harlan, a friend of Alex's and author of UFO-related 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.[6]
  • Tom Everett Scott as Mr. Matheson, a government agent working for Burke.
  • 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.[11]
  • Chris Marquette as Pope, one of Burke's agents.[11]
  • Eva Huang as Shira the UFO Huntress
  • Billy Brown as Mr. Carson
  • Dennis Hayden as Ray
  • William J. Birnes, the host of UFO Hunters, in a cameo.[11]
  • Whitley Strieber, author of Communion, in a cameo.[11][12]

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 (a reference to his character [Tony] from the previous films). Meredith Salenger, the star of Disney's 1985 adventure The Journey of Natty Gann has a cameo as a TV reporter named "Natalie Gann".[13][14]



Development of an Escape to Witch Mountain remake was announced in April 2001, with writing duties handed to Adam Kulakow.[15] 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.[16] 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.[4] 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, the original source of the films, as "a very cool dark thriller" and anticipated drawing elements from it that did not exist in the 1975 film.[17] By March 2008 filmmakers were using a new script written by Mark Bomback:[18] now re-titled Race to Witch Mountain, filming began in Los Angeles the same month.[10]

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 Complex.[11] A cabin for the story was also built in Agua Dulce, California.[19] The director sought assistance from UFO experts, the military, and CIA advisers to shape the elements of the film.[20] 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.[12]



The Offspring song "Stuff is Messed Up" and Future World Music song "Heart Of Fury" were used in promos for the film. 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.[21] 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.

The film also features the hit single "Fly on the Wall" by Miley Cyrus and "Emergency" by Hollywood Records artist Steve Rushton, on the soundtrack.

Home media


Race to Witch Mountain was released August 4, 2009 in three different sets: a single disc wide-screen DVD with no bonus features; a deluxe DVD edition with bonus content; and a Blu-ray release of the deluxe edition.



Critical response


Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 42% rating based on 153 reviews, and an average rating of 5.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Despite the best efforts of a talented cast, Race to Witch Mountain is a tepid reboot that lacks the magic of the original."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 52 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[24] Roger Ebert gave it two and half stars on four.

Box office


The film was a box office hit. It became the first Disney film in 2009 to open at #1, grossing $24.4 million. The film went on to gross over $67 million at the North American domestic box office, and over $39 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $106 million.[2][25]


  1. ^ Barnes, Brooks (5 March 2009). "Yep, He's Big". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  2. ^ a b "Race to Witch Mountain (2009)". The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  3. ^ "Race to Witch Mountain". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Fleming, Michael (August 28, 2007). "The Rock set for 'Witch Mountain'". Variety. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Perkis, Ed (July 31, 2008). "Comic Con: Interview With The Stars And Director Of Witch Mountain". Cinemablend.com. Cinema Blend, LLC. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d Goldstein, Gregg (March 14, 2008). "Carla Gugino scratches "Witch" itch". Reuters. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  7. ^ Chen, Sandie Angulo (October 2, 2008). "Andy Fickman". Variety. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "Set Visit: Race to Witch Mountain - Part Two". IGN. News Corporation. July 22, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  9. ^ Lee, Patrick (July 30, 2008). "Witch's Gugino Chases UFOs". Sci Fi Wire. Sci Fi Channel. Retrieved July 30, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b "Irishman Hinds playing bad guy in "Witch" redo". Reuters. March 4, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  11. ^ a b c d e Chupnick, Steve (July 16, 2008). "Race to Witch Mountain Set Visit: Part I". ComingSoon.net. Coming Soon Media, L.P. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Set Visit: Race to Witch Mountain — Part One". IGN. News Corporation. July 17, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (April 29, 2008). ""Witch Mountain" kids return for remake". Reuters. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  14. ^ John Hough (1975). Escape to Witch Mountain (Motion picture). The Walt Disney Company.
  15. ^ "Disney conjures scribe for 'Witch'". Variety. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  16. ^ Kit, Borys (July 23, 2007). "Director Fickman to conjure "Witch" redo". Reuters. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  17. ^ Adler, Shawn (September 25, 2007). "AnnaSophia Robb To Climb 'Witch Mountain'". MTV Movies Blog. MTV. Archived from the original on April 23, 2018. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  18. ^ "Carla Gugino Joins Race to Witch Mountain". ComingSoon.net. Coming Soon Media, L.P. March 14, 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  19. ^ Newgen, Heather (August 4, 2008). "Race to Witch Mountain Set Visit: Fickman & Gunn". ComingSoon.net. Coming Soon Media, L.P. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  20. ^ Vejvoda, Jim (July 25, 2008). "SDCC 08: IGN Scales Witch Mountain". IGN. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  21. ^ Dan Goldwasser (February 18, 2009). "Trevor Rabin scores Race to Witch Mountain". ScoringSessions.com. Retrieved February 18, 2009.
  22. ^ "Race to Witch Mountain (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  23. ^ "Race to Witch Mountain (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  24. ^ "'Race to Witch Mountain' casts a spell at No. 1 - CNN.com". www.cnn.com. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  25. ^ Race to Witch Mountain at Box Office Mojo