Wheelman-turned reformed Las Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno (Johnson) knows something is up when two eerie kids offer him a wad of money to take them to a location deep in the wilderness. Sara and Seth (Robb and Ludwig), it turns out, are wormhole-busting aliens sent on a quest to save their planet and Earth. Hot on their trail are a Predator-style assassin hell-bent on their demise and a team of shady US counter-extraterrestrials.
In this remake of 1975's Escape to Witch Mountain (based on Alexander Key's novel of the same name), the question is: who will win the race? When director Fickman took to the stage at the UK premiere of Witch Mountain in London, his final words - delivered with gusto to the crowd of mostly kids and their parents before his film started - were: "Are you ready for the race to begin?" Many people in the audience would have reacted in a similar way to this reviewer - that the next 98 minutes of our lives would be spent watching a chase movie featuring two alien kids and The Rock. Sounds cool. Sadly, it wasn't to be. It turns out that chasing, or racing, only forms a small part of this Disney movie, that the alien kids aren't explicitly so until the last half hour and The Rock spends equally scant time being The Rock.
Fickman should have stuck closer to his words during development. A road movie featuring UFOs and set against the Nevada valleys could have worked, but he has instead made a stuttering and uneven kids' flick that could have easily ended up on the Disney Channel straightaway were it not for the strong adult cast. Johnson is very watchable, but it's unclear what his role in the plot is apart from being smashed around the place by an ugly alien assassin and driving a beat-up cab when the kids can use their extensive telekinetic powers to go pretty much wherever they want. The special effects do not really hold up during the film's more lengthy set pieces, while the sets - a far cry from the expansive, evocative hinterland around Las Vegas - are claustrophobic. Parents may also be genuinely concerned by the on-screen violence, while Seth's ability to control his molecular density leads to some upsetting scenes involving being hit full-on by a speeding car and resisting a hail of bullets. The original Escape to Witch Mountain was a kooky, often dawdling tale but its 21st century predecessor, although much flashier, loses the race in comparison.