In the immortal words of John “Jigsaw” Kramer, “I want to play a game.” That game, my dear stargazers, is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Be it a multi-movie series, a celebrity birthday, or a film’s anniversary, I have various methods for selecting the films that are inducted into the vault. With Six Degrees, I’ll be challenged by you readers to select vault films that will link a celebrity of your choice to Kevin Bacon. Alternatively, you can choose to play Six Degrees Hold the Bacon by nominating two celebrities that I will have to connect through vault selections. My goal will be to think of as few films as possible to be reviewed to make the connection. My one stipulation is that in either version we play, you select celebrities that were cinematically active at some point between 1970 to 2010. This will ensure I stick to the loose vault guidelines laid out by my overlords (i.e. Kai and Dylan). Easy enough, right? I look forward to reading your challenges in the comments. In the meantime, in honor of the release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, let’s smell what The Rock was cooking in March of 2009.
It’s not a good time to be Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson). He’s a cabbie in Vegas scratching out an honest living when the geeks start arriving en masse to the UFO Expo and irritating the piss out of him. To make matters worse, his old boss’s henchman are accosting him and then he finds a fare, two kids, waiting in his cab. The kids, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), are actually alien children who have landed on Earth to retrieve a data storage device that holds the key to saving both their world and ours. As government agents and an alien assassin track them, Bruno enlists the help of a UFO expert from the Expo, Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), to help the kids return to their ship.
Kudos to Witch Mountain‘s actors; they all work hard to pull off story that’s thinner than the paper it’s printed on. The only other things working harder than the cast are the two buttons on Gugino’s blouse that are barely holding back her twins. While drooling during that all-too-brief scene, I could almost hear director Andy Fickman chastising wardrobe for endangering the film’s kid-friendliness. Bring on the zip-up jacket! No matter her attire, Gugino lights up in geeky glee and spouts astro-jargon like a nerdy pro. Opposite her, Dwayne Johnson is charismatic and manly with just enough scruff to affirm he’s down on his luck . Robb excels as the empathetic alien while Ludwig, who I’ve never seen before, delivers what I can only assume is a deliberately wooden performance.
Witch Mountain screws the pooch by taking the “race” concept to the extreme. Amazingly efficient government agents chase and corner the kids at every turn yet repeatedly fumble their apprehension. The uber-powered alien assassin stalks the kids through a flame-engulfed underground cavern, but the bright yellow cab on the lonely desert highway somehow eludes its detection. Bruno’s totally unnecessary subplot rears its ugly head as his old boss’s henchmen return to add yet another level of complexity to the chase story. It’s a dizzying onslaught of explosions, crashes and fights that feels like you’re in a theme-park simulator, except the seats don’t move and spray water. I wanted all the flurry and bustle to stop so I could walk out and vomit.
Being able to ogle Johnson and Gugino in their too-small tops is the only thing that kept my absolute disgust and disinterest in check. Fickman passes up a couple of golden opportunities to have Dwayne go shirtless, but I’m guessing his tattoos were also considered less-than-family-friendly. Still, Johnson flexes his guns, throws a few good punches, and fires that winning smile like audiences have come to expect. Its sparkle is almost enough to make us forget how weak Race to Witch Mountain is… almost.
The cool effects and whirlwind pace of Race to Witch Mountain will mesmerize kiddies amped up on the salty-sugar infusion of popcorn and soda. However, more seasoned moviegoers will notice the plotholes are more vast than the Nevada desert. Sometimes pretty faces are just the type of diversion audiences need. This time, we needed to be a helluva lot more.