A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this new take on Disney's classic Escape to Witch Mountain is scary -- the destruction of the world is at stake, and the main characters are in constant peril. And, for a PG-rated film, it has more violence and intense moments than you might expect. Since the alien villain and government agents are all trying to kill or capture the extraterrestrial teens, the kids are constantly in danger and have to ward off many threats, including explosions and direct gunfire. There's also a little bit of mild flirting between two characters and several product placements. Language is mostly limited to threats like "you're dead."
What's the story?
Jack Bruno (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is a Las Vegas cabbie who picks up an unusual fare one afternoon -- teenage siblings with a huge roll of cash. Jack soon discovers that Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) aren't just runaways with awkward social skills. They're aliens on a mission to return an ecological secret to their home planet. If they don't find their spaceship and go back, earth's population will be destroyed. Jack enlists a beautiful astrophysicist (Carla Gugino) to help the kids overcome two formidable obstacles: U.S. Homeland Security agents who want to capture and study the "illegal aliens" at a remote government base called Witch Mountain and the villainous alien Siphon, a Terminator-like assassin sent to prevent the kids from going home -- by any means necessary.
Is it any good?
Director Andy Fickman, who hired Johnson for RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN while they filmed the family comedy The Game Plan, knows how to ramp up the action while keeping the humor a kid-friendly PG. With his bulging muscles and surprisingly acute comic chops, Johnson proves he's the Arnold Schwarzenegger of this generation, able to kick serious butt one moment and be the butt of a joke the next. Gugino (of Spy Kids and Night at the Museum fame) is always perfectly pleasant, if a bit unbelievable as a Ph.D., while Irish thespian Ciaran Hinds is adeptly menacing as a government agent, and Cheech Marin and Garry Marshall provide some comic relief.
Even the original movie's child stars -- Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards -- get more than the usual one-line cameos as a helpful sheriff and waitress, respectively. As for their contemporary counterparts, Robb is sweetly ethereal and clearly a rising star, leaving Ludwig slightly underwhelming by comparison. Kids will a kick out of the teens' telekinetic and shape-shifting abilities, and parents will appreciate the one-liners about Vegas, sci-fi conventions, fanboys, and, ultimately, the concept of teens who act like aliens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the amount of violence in this movie is OK for the kid audience it's being advertised to. Kids: Was it scarier than you thought it would be? Is it less scary because the main characters are aliens? Why or why not?
How are Seth and Sarah different from other aliens you've seen in movies and TV shows? What do they learn about humankind -- and vice versa?
For fans of the original Disney Witch Mountain movies, how does this remake compare?
- In theaters: March 13, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: August 4, 2009
- Cast: Alexander Ludwig, AnnaSophia Robb, Dwayne The Rock Johnson
- Director: Andy Fickman
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.