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Film / Race to Witch Mountain

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Sara: My brother and I... We are not from your planet.
Jack: Well you don't look like aliens.
Sara: What does an alien look like?
Jack: You know what aliens look like! They're little green people with antennas and "Take me to your leader, Earthlings!"

Race to Witch Mountain is a 2009 Disney action film starring Dwayne Johnson. It is a remake/reboot of the Witch Mountain movies from The '70s (Escape to, Return from, and Beyond) and their own 1995 remake. The story consists of two aliens (who look just like human teenagers) crash landing on Earth. The Government takes their ship to a top-secret research facility, Witch Mountain. From there the two aliens, Seth and Sara, hail a cab, brandish a large wad of money, and tell the driver, Jack Bruno (Johnson), to go "that way". The three quickly find themselves in a race to reach Witch Mountain to recover the spaceship and escape, all while evading the forces of government agent Burke (Ciarán Hinds) and the Siphon (Tom Woodruff Jr.), a dangerous alien assassin assigned to eliminate the twins.

This film includes examples of:

  • Actionized Adaptation: None of the three prior films based on Key's work included elements such as a Race Against the Clock to prevent an Alien Invasion, infiltrating a military base, shootouts, Mexican Standoffs and a Final Battle in which one of the protagonists wrestles an alien soldier.
  • Adaptational Protagonist: In the original Escape to Witch Mountain, the two kids are the protagonists. They are helped out by an initially cynical man, Jason O'Day, but he's clearly a supporting character in their story. In the reboot/remake Race to Witch Mountain, Jason's counterpart is Jack Bruno, and since he's played by Dwayne Johnson, it goes without saying that he's the protagonist now. Notably, the emotional core of Escape is based on the kids' Quest for Identity, with Jason's arc being a side plot. In Race, the kids know who they are from the start, thus putting all the emphasis on Jack's development.
  • Alien Abduction: Subverted. In this case, it is the aliens who are captured (by humans).
  • Aliens Speaking English: Albeit Spock Speak.
  • Alternate Continuity: The planet in the original book was destroyed due to their binary star system.
  • Are We There Yet?: "good in any universe".
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: How Dr. Friedman cleared the area where the spaceship was being stored and studied.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Toyed with in Carson's case. He's the only one to seemingly be affected by the car crash with Seth, and his implied position as Burke's enforcer (not to mention that he leads the attack teams) indicates that this would happen. Happily, he survives.
  • Black Site: Witch Mountain. Also an odd case of Adaptational Villainy for a location — on the original story and film(s), it was the "safe place" for the aliens to reach.
  • The Cameo: "Not now, Whitley!"
  • Continuity Nod: Dr. Harlan's Winnebago recalls Jason O'Day's vehicle in the original movie.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Escaping the exhaust vent fire.
  • Darker and Edgier: Quite a bit more intense than the comparatively low-key Escape to Witch Mountain. Escape is very G-rated whereas Race pushes the bounds of PG.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mob boss getaway driver turned taxicab driver Jack Bruno. At least he's attractive.
  • Decomposite Character: Jason O'Day is split into Jack Bruno (world-weary father figure who drives the kids around for much of the movie) and Dr. Donald Harlan (grumpy old man with a camper).
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Seth is far more distrusting and dismissive of Jack and all humans in general, but changes his attitude and is actually gracious in thanking Jack at the film's end.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Siphon doesn't exactly fall to his death - he falls into the exhaust port of the kids' spaceship and is disintegrated.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: The Siphon was sent by parts of the kids' home world's government that don't want them to succeed and isn't operating of his own accord. Despite this, we see next to nothing of whoever sent the thing, making the Siphon the main villain of the film.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Jack. Justified as part of his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Witch Mountain.
  • Everything Is Online: The Government can pull up every Magical Security Cam in Las Vegas in just a few seconds.
  • Expy: The Siphon is basically a Predator. Their masks and even their faces beneath the masks look alike (sans the mandibles and dreadlocks). He also bears an uncanny resemblance to a Kull Warrior.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: The alien assassin hunter just stands there for an entire fight scene with the military as bullets ineffectually bounce off his armor. Nobody thinks to get a bigger gun.
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: With the flying saucer.
  • Flying Saucer: The design of the kid's spaceship.
  • The Ghost: Andrew Wolfe, a mob boss who sends his goons to catch Jack Bruno, is mentioned a few times, but is never shown on-screen.
  • Gilligan Cut: After the dog enter the cab there's a scene where Sara says that the dog "needs to go" and it ends like this:
    Jack: "... conversation with a dog(!) so my answer is still no."
    Cue the scene where the dog comes back from where he had to go.
  • Green Aesop: The movie changes the cause of the destruction of the kids' planet in order to squeeze in an environmental message. Alex even notes that Earth is on a similar path, just less far along. It's never really developed beyond that, however.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Nor does anyone seem to have wondered why the guards who were supposed to remove Jack and Alex from the facility never checked back in.
  • Human Aliens: Seth and Sara, and presumably the rest of their species.
  • I Have Brothers: Dr. Friedman's explanation of how she punched out a scientist.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Sara.
  • Implacable Man: The Siphon. Nothing does anything more than slow him down and he tracks the cast down no matter where they are. It takes being thrown into the exhaust port of the kid's saucer to take him out.
  • In Name Only: Has almost nothing in common with the original 1968 novel Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key except for the "Witch Mountain" name and two human-looking children who are actually alien in origin.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Sara.
  • Inspector Javert: Henry Burke. The man brings a hefty amount of overkill (in the form of various cars full of agents) in his chase after the kids even before he knows that they have powers and follows the mentality that because they are aliens they are a threat that needs to be contained and experimented on, and even if nobody ever explains to him that letting them go would allow them to prevent an Alien Invasion, it's really hard to tell whether or not he would have ended up dismissing it as a lie and not care.
  • Intangible Man: Seth.
  • Inventional Wisdom: The Flame Throwing Air Vent.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Jack Bruno does just that.
  • Lost in Imitation: Despite officially being an adaptation of Alexander Key's 1968 book Escape to Witch Mountain, this movie is blatantly a reimagining of the 1975 film version and even that it deviates from considerably.
  • Manly Tears: Jack Bruno at the ending where he says goodbye to the children; Dwayne Johnson is more willing to be openly sentimental than his predecessors Schwarzenegger and Stallone.
  • The Men in Black: Henry Burke and the government division he leads.
  • Mexican Standoff: In Ray's Diner, between Burke's Men In Black and Sheriff Antony's deputies/the townspeople.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Sara reads both Jack and Alex's thoughts concerning one another.
    Jack: So, she was thinking about me, huh?
    Sara: At least as much as you were thinking about her.
  • Mythology Gag: Bruno was a character from the 1995 adaptation of the novel.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Jack has a criminal record and has since gone straight. When Burke threatens him with a twenty year sentence for trespassing on Witch Mountain, he "gives up" and says he can't return to prison. Of course, it's a ploy.
  • 90% of Your Brain: The kids explain that Earthlings are capable of telekinesis too and don't because "you don't use your full brain capacity".
  • Oh, Crap!: The expression on Sara's face (due to Jack's thoughts after he has to stop the cab so Junkyard can relieve himself) is priceless.
  • Papa Wolf: Jack Bruno.
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: Human Alien Seth increases his density just before a car hits him, causing it to smash against his body without harming him.
  • Perspective Flip: The movie is told from the perspective of Jack Bruno (essentially a Younger and Hipper version of Jason O'Day from the original) rather than the kids.
  • Plot Induced Stupidity:
    • No limit is really set as to how often the children can use their powers. Because of this, it isn't made particularly clear why the bounty hunter is a threat to them when Seth can become an Intangible Man and actually apply this power to people he's in contact with. On the other hand, the Siphon was created by their home world, so they probably know more about him than we do.
    • The villains have this when an SUV full of four presumably armed government agents just sit there while Jack threatens them with a tire iron. They let him go unquestioned.
    • How about the way the entire main cast hugged the Idiot Ball. The children and Bruno and especially Dr. Friedman. They have multiple chances face to face with Brurke exactly why it would be an excellent idea to let them return to their own planet and stop the alien invasion. For that matter, if one were a government agent who has found aliens with interstellar capability have landed in my balliwick, one should do everything in your power to try and initiate a friendly non-threatening contact. Drugging them and threatening them with guns, not so much.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Burke's people go after the cab. They don't use their godlike government powers to have the dispatch call the cab and ask Jack to stop for the government people.
    • Burke does it again in the small town. He brings in a small army to capture the aliens but doesn't contact the local sheriff and law enforcement to assist.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: The children in this movie are vastly overpowered compared to the originals in the Alexander Key novel.
  • Product Placement: Jack's cab has a Nationwide Insurance sign on top, which remains pristine throughout the film.
  • Puny Earthlings: Seth and Sara have Psychic Powers.
    • Defied on several fronts.
    • It's strongly implied that Sara gave Jack access to more of his mind, thus giving him Psychic Powers.
    • Alex's theories are now known by the government and more than a few scientists to be correct, so now, they have new directions to steer scientific research. Also - she's helped to prove that aliens exist and have visited Earth before.
    • While Burke may have failed in containing Seth and Sara or getting their ship - they still have the wreckage of the Siphon's ship. That's more than enough for the government to do some reverse-engineering, as well as just study of the tech involved. It wouldn't be the first time that scientists get tech they can't use because of damage or have to work around power issues with the new tech - but just studying it gives them different directions for R&D that lets them build new things.
  • Remake Cameo: Kim Richards (Tina the waitress) and Ike Eisenmann (Sheriff Antony), who played the kids (Tia and Tony) in the original Escape to Witch Mountain.
  • Save the Villain: During the final fight sequence, Jack looks like he's about to do this to the Siphon. He then winks at him and punches him in the face, causing the Siphon to fall into the exhaust port and die.
  • Scary Black Man: Carson. Jack also qualifies, in a non-villainous example.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sliding Scale of Villain Threat: Notable because the stakes are so much higher than in the original film, in which the villains only posed a threat to the children themselves. Here, the villains' success would result in the destruction of Earth and the kids' home planet.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The kids' parents, who are alive off-screen in this version. In the original, the kids were Heartwarming Orphans.
  • Spock Speak: Seth and Sara.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security:
    • Burke says to his team as they walk up to the restaurant that he wants all the exits covered. Everyone on his team files into the restaurant behind him, thus getting held up. When Jack and the kids escape the top of the building, there's no one at the back entrance.
    • And again in Witch Mountain. The high tech facility has no surveillance on the ventilation shafts.
  • Tears of Joy: Alex, upon realizing who (and what) Seth and Sara are and how it validates her entire life's work.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Treating the 90% of Your Brain line as a Chekhov's Lecture, Sara gives Jack a 'parting gift' by apparently touching a hand to his head... we never see what effect this had.
    • For those of us who actually paid attention to the scene, we notice that Sara's last words before she left didn't actually include her mouth moving. This also pays off when you consider in the credits sequence that Jack and Alex have Junkyard with them, and he's remarkably well-behaved. Jack also being telepathic now would explain this.
  • You Are Not Alone: For both Jack and Alex, and (in-universe) for the people of Earth itself.