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October 12, 2009
Race to Witch Mountain Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
9/4/200924/8/2009Walt DisneyAndy Fickman
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGDwayne Johnson

THE MOVIE
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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Witch Mountain.

Race to Witch Mountain is essentially a remake/reboot of Escape to Witch Mountain from 1975 and Return from Witch Mountain in 1978. Despite plenty of action sequences this is a lively movie suitable for the whole family which stars ex-wrestling star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Race to Witch Mountain tells the story of two alien visitors, Sara and Seth, whose search for their spacecraft gets them caught up in an adventure with a cab driver Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) and a UFO specialist (Carla Gugino). As the group races toward the mysterious mountain in the Nevada desert that has mystified scientists and paranormal researchers for years, the government, gangsters, and an extraterrestrial bounty hunter attempt to prevent them from reaching their intended destination. Should the two planetary travelers fail in recovering their ship, an alien invasion will be launched against the entire planet.

Despite being aimed at a younger market Race to Witch Mountain took just over $US106 million worldwide at cinemas upon release earlier this year. That's a decent enough amount but after watching this movie on Blu-Ray we're a little surprised it didn't take a little more then that - with the box office quite heavily skewed to the American market with over 63% of the money made there.

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Jack Bruno picks up Sara and Seth.
Indeed this movie isn't overly complicated, nor filled with jaw-dropping plot twists, but Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has yet again proven his charm on the silver screen with a solid performance, and the two child actors, AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) and Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising), also put in impressive, alien, performances.

Sure there are some "stupid" moments. The Feds discover that the "aliens" that have landed are bipeds (eg walk on two legs) and their computer then magically determines that they are two child-like people who the computer draws up with slightly different physiques. A bit too convenient. Being able to elude the federal police is a bit too easy at times, how do you just walk off the roof of a diner surrounded by secret agents and not get noticed until you get to the car? Why not ditch the bright yellow taxi earlier rather then drive it around for most of the movie after the agents are tracking you down? Silly things, but they don't "break" the movie.

Despite these moments Race to Witch Mountain remains is an entertaining movie for the entire family. There are plenty of PG rated action sequences and the performances are impressive across the board so it's worth checking this out. Even adults may have a bit of fun with this release.

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Get off the road, now!
VIDEO
Race to Witch Mountain comes to Blu-Ray presented in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Again Walt Disney Studios has done a brilliant job in transferring this movie to Blu-Ray, although it's not up to their highest standards. At times the image is brilliantly sharp, colourful transfer which exudes detail at every turn. Indeed the video bitrate on this disc, according to our PS3 here anyway, often runs between 25Mbps and 35Mbps.

Where the problem lies is in the darker scenes where all the blacks seem to merge together making thins hard to distinguish. The video bitrate also drops in these scenes, often down around the 15Mbps range. Finally we noticed some edge enhancement in some scenes which is a little annoying too. These are minor issues, but are present

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Cheech Marin in Race to Witch Mountain.
AUDIO
The primary audio track on the Blu-Ray release of Race to Witch Mountain is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz). One thing is certain, this is a very impressive, lively presentation with great use of surround sound channels and sub woofer. As with so many other Disney releases this is an aural tour de force with clear dialogue, and lively music during both the action, and more pedestrian scenes.

Other tracks on this disc include an English Audio Descriptive Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 320kbps, as well as French and Spanish DTS tracks each encoded at 1.5Mbps. Needless to say all audio tracks are impressive on this release. Subtitles are provided in English for the Hearing Impaired, English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Suomi, and Islenska.

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This Blu-Ray struggles a little in dark scenes.
EXTRAS
There are a couple of extras on this disc, but nothing of any real substance sadly.

Deleted Scenes (23:31): Nine deleted and/or extended scenes are presented here with an introduction from director Andy Fickman. It's a bit of a shame these are only presented in Standard Definition, but they are still worth a look.

Bloopers (3:37): Just the usual sequence of fluffed lines and goofing around on-set. Actually it does show quite a bit of Dwayne Johnson's funnier side - it would be pretty good to work with him I think!

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The Rock has turned into a decent actor...
Backstage Disney: Which Mountain? (8:20/HD): The director Andy Fickman looks at the homage’s to the two original movies in this latest movie. Most interesting is the re-casting of the two child actors Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann in this latest movie. Nice to see this Blu-Ray exclusive presented in HD too.

OVERALL
Sure Race to Witch Mountain is a kids movie deep down, but it's one which adults will likely enjoy too. Plenty of action, some great characters, and a fun ride manages to override the somewhat predictable and pedestrian plot. One for the whole family to enjoy...

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
7/10
THE VIDEO
8/10
THE AUDIO
9/10
THE EXTRAS
3/10
OVERALL
7/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Walt Disney Studios. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.