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RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN ($45) is a fun, family friendly action movie that re-imagines the minor Disney live-action classic, ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, for a modern audience. The premise is similar to the original film, with the story playing up the general likeability and heroic persona of leading man Dwayne Johnson. In RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN Johnson portrays Las Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno, who intends to stay on the straight and narrow, despite past associations with shady characters. Aside from delivering costumed conventioneers to an outer space themed conference, Jack finds himself with two young passengers, a brother and sister named Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), who offer him a large sum of cash to drive them to a remote location out in the desert. As soon as the cab hits a deserted stretch of highway, the occupants find them pursued by a number of non-descript black SUVs, which aggressively try to stop the cab.

Unbeknownst to Jack, the SUVs contain government agents, who are looking for the two occupants of a downed flying saucer. Thanks to Jack’s driving skills, as well as a little otherworldly help, Sara and Seth arrive at their destination… but things take a turn for the worse, when they discover an extraterrestrial assassin waiting for them. Of course, the brother and sister are then forced to reveal that they are not of this Earth, not to mention having to accept the help of the overprotective cabbie to avoid the alien assassin, complete their mission and recover their space craft from a secret government facility. The cast of RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN also features Carla Gugino, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Everett Scott, Chris Marquette, Billy Brown, and Garry Marshall. Look for the now grown up stars of ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, to make cameo appearances.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. For the most part, the 1080p presentation is highly pleasing and delivers the kind of visuals one expects from a brand new live-action Disney movie. Almost always, the image appears sharp, very well defined, textured and highly dimensional. Colors vary depending on the setting sometimes appearing a bit cold and subdued, but most of the time coming across as warm and very vibrant. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp and contrast is generally smooth. Shadow detail is usually quite solid, but there are some dark moments where the picture appears a bit dense and under-defined. The elements from which RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN have been transferred appear free from blemishes. There is some modest grain in the image.

RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The track delivers just exactly what one should expect from this type of enterprise- it is big, loud and aggressively mixed to make the most of the action sequences. All the outlying channels are well utilized for precise sound effects placement, as well as for smooth panning of effects across the soundstage. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is just great, producing full-bodied musical component, as well as fully convincing sound effects. The bass channel is deep and shakes things up whenever required. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is totally understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some extras. The largest piece of extra content would be twenty-three minutes of Deleted Scenes, which are presented with director's introductions. Next is an eight minute Backstage Disney program entitled Which Mountain?. An amusing Blooper Reel and Bonus Trailers close out the standard extras. RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray, while disc three provides a Digital Copy of the film.

As I stated above, RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN is a fun, family friendly action movie. The now grown up fans of the original should get a kick out of the update, plus it proves to be a good quality Blu-ray release, even if the supplements are a bit light.



Race to Witch Mountain (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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