Escape to Witch Mountain: Pure Boilerplate

This remake of Disney’s 1975 classic Escape to Witch Mountain is pure, if mildly enjoyable, boilerplate: A spaceship crashes on earth and its young sibling-duo passengers must return home in order to save their own planet and ours; a curmudgeon cabbie is corralled into helping them and has his heart thawed in return, even scoring a G-rated love interest; sinister U.S. government operatives miss the big “Save the world” picture in their quest to capture and experiment upon the “illegal aliens.” Director Andy Fickman, working from Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback’s rote, hole-laden screenplay, fills Race with impressive action sequences and winning performances from a cast working hard to turn types into characters. (Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, the OG Witch Mountain children, have cameos.) The crowd of preteens with whom I saw the film clapped, laughed, and cheered throughout; their parents leaned more toward lukewarm chuckles. The remake’s core strength, ironically, derives from its most cynical departure from the source material—the shoehorning of Dwayne Johnson’s taciturn cabdriver into the story. This remake, reportedly written with Johnson (not the tale’s child characters) in mind, is a calculated bid to turn the Rock into a more family-friendly commodity. That calculation may be transparent, but it pays off: Cracking one-liners and alternating between world-weariness and growing affection for his charges, Johnson is wonderful—much better than his material.

 
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