Race to Witch Mountain (2009) Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a really likable guy and very charismatic screen presence who has suffered from a string of bad project choices for his career. I said a long time ago that he needed to take a page from the Vin Diesel playbook and do a Disney film where he plays against type. And finally he did and scored big with 2007's The Game Plan (which has been parked on my TiVo since March and I still haven't gotten around to watching it!) So, I thought it was pretty cool when they announced that The Rock would be staring in a follow-up to a duo of quintessential 70's Disney films: Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Return to Witch Mountain (1978). Unfortunately, this new recent visit to Witch Mountain is a boring plop of poop. Part of what made the original films so much fun were the special effects and the awesome things the alien kids could do with their minds. They could make doors open by themselves, they could fly a motor home, they even made a chandelier fall on a bad guy...and that's like the coolest way to catch a bad guy! But now it's 2009, we've seen special effects in a million movies and opening doors without touching them doesn't quite impress anymore. In one scene, the boy morphs through the backseat of a car to end up standing in the middle of the road where an Escalade hits him and crumples like tin foil while the boy remains unharmed. You can't really hang a movie on tricks like that...we've seen it all before. The story involves cab driver Johnson helping the two alien kids get back to their spaceship while a group of darkly dressed government agents chase them around every corner. There's some cute homages to other sci-fi flicks, including the original Witch Mountain movies, Disney's own Tron (also due for a modern revisit next year) and of course, plenty of Star Wars jokes. I think anyone would be better off watching the original 1975 film instead of wasting an evening on this no-so-great race.
The Incredible Journey (1963) Here's a reversal on the Witch Mountain scenario. The Incredible Journey is a lone animal adventure story from 1963, which Disney revisited twice in the 1990's with Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) and Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Fransisco (1996). I have seen both the modern films multiple times and enjoyed them but the original Disney classic had reminded one of the few films Walt Disney produced that I hadn't seen.
The Incredible Journey is pure Disney comfort food. The proceedings are narrated by Rex Allen, a warm welcoming voice which has accompanied many other Disney productions including the father in the Carousel of Progress show from the 1964 World's Fair - now playing at Walt Disney World. Allen provides the motives and thoughts of the animals in this story as they do not talk like in the modern remakes. Two dogs and a cat come to the conclusion that they are being abandoned by their caretaker so they begin on a 200 mile journey across the wilderness to return to their original family. Along the way they encounter bears and other wildlife and well as a handful of people. Near the end, the owners discover that the animals are missing and assume they are making the journey home. "That would be incredible!", they all say. This not being Old Yeller they do make it home for a happy ending. An ending that is played out very similar to the 1993 version which I've seen a dozen times and yet still teared up at the thought of a boy I don't know not being reunited with his long lost dog.
My kids liked the movie too, even though they didn't cry at the end!