Race to Witch Mountain (2009)

Rated: PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements.
Length: 98 minutes
Grade: B-B-DC=B-
Budget: $50 million
Box Office: $119 million (67 U.S., 39 Intl., 13 DVD)

Written by: Matt Lopez (Bedtime Stories) and Mark Bomback (Deception, Die Hard 4, Godsend), based on the book by Alexander Key
Directed by: Andy Fickman (Game Plan, She’s the Man, Who’s Your Daddy?)
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, and Garry Marshall.

A reformed felon who now drives a cab in Las Vegas finds himself embroiled in intergalactic conflict when two teenagers from another planet jump into his cab and lead him on a series of adventures to elude both the federal agents and the alien assassin hot on their trail.
Entertainment Value: B-
On the pure fun scale, this gets an A. If you ask too many questions (and even one is likely to be too many), this immediately slips into the B range. But if all you’re looking for here is a fun action alien romp, then you’ll be satisfied, at least you will be after the overlong 3 minute opening credits. It reminded me a bit fo Journey to the Center of the Earth. All bang, no content, which is fine for comic books and sometimes PG movies.

Superficial Content: B-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence C+, Language A
This is squeaky clean on language, drugs, and sexuality. Seriously, Kidz-in-mind gave it a zero for language and a 1 for sex. That’s as clean as it gets. The issue, however, is going to be violence and scary scenes. This was too much for our three-year-old, but not too much for our five-year-old. There’s plenty of fighting, car crashes, explosions, alien spacecraft, and a scary-looking assassin from outer space. Actually, I thought the alien assassin was too creepy for young kids, and I would have preferred something a little more tame when he took off his helmet at the end. But PG is clearly the right rating here.

Significant Content: D
Aliens are real, and some of them (the scientists) are good whereas others (the military and the government) are bad. Our government is also bad, preferring to dissect aliens than to comprehend them. UFO believers are mostly deranged, but a few are just curious and exploring. If we would use more of our brains, we would exhibit paranormal abilities, too. Other than this, there really aren’t any lessons, although the kids do steal from an ATM at the beginning.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Seriously? I can’t grade it any higher but I can’t justify grading it any lower since it clearly isn’t even trying to score points on this scale.

Discussion Questions:
~What image of our federal government does this movie give to kids who might see it? Should movies try to make federal agents seem better than this, or do you think portraying them this way is a health thing for our society?
~Have you ever been ridiculed for your beliefs? Do you think it’s ever good for us to laugh at the beliefs of other people? What about extreme examples such as UFOs, holodaust denial, and conspiracy theories like about 9/11 or the Moon Landing? How does “love your neighbor as yourself” play out in such cases? If you truly believed some of those things, how would you want others to treat you? If you believed them but also somehow could know you were wrong, how would you want others to treat you.
~Do you think that paranormal abilities such as seeing the future, moving objects you’re your mind, reading minds, and body mass manipulation are really possible? Do you think that all humans have these abilities, at least potentially? Consider some of the strange stories about Jesus after the Resurrection. He walked through a door, He flew up into the sky, and He was able to conceal or reveal His identity to His disciples at will. Do you think we might have similar powers when we are in our glorified bodies?
~At one point, Sara tells Jack that he already knows the truth about who they are but just isn’t willing to believe it. What role does our will have in accepting and rejecting beliefs? Have you ever believed something too easily that you later regretted? Have you ever refused believing something too hard that you later regretted?
~Do you think aliens exist? If they do, do you think they look like we do? Would the existence of aliens challenge any of your beliefs, especially about the Bible? Do you think it’s healthy for a culture like ours to be so fixated on aliens and alien movies?
Overall Grade: B-
My favorite part of this movie, and I will certainly prove myself a total geek with this comment, was the Tron costume worn at about 62 minutes. Look for it and enter total happiness. Tron was a Disney production, in case you didn’t remember. Otherwise, this is a fun romp of sci-fi remakery. The originals were classic. This is a bit more scary, but also good clean fun, if a bit scary for young kids. Turn your mind off for an hour and a half, and you’ll do just fine.

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