The Night Out: Race To Witch Mountain (2009), or A Romantic Evening With Dwayne Johnson

18 03 2009
Not a very prominent Disney property to re-imagine, I have to say. Whats next, Disney? A big-screen adaptation of Ocean Girl?

Not a very prominent Disney property to re-imagine, I have to say. What's next, Disney? A big-screen adaptation of Ocean Girl?

Another Night Out, ladies and germs. I love going to the movies on a weekday. And it’s not just for the obvious reasons of, you know, watching movies. The big attraction suddenly becomes less about what you’re watching and more about how sparsely the theater will be populated. There’s something about the magic of an empty parking lot, an empty marquee, an empty lobby, and an empty theater that combine to create a sense of wonder and whimsy. Like being let loose in a candy shop full of celluloid, there are just so many options.

Coming in, the first thing that I wonder is, “Can I sneak into another movie after this one?” The answer, I am unsatisfied to find, is usually no. They always keep enough eyes around to make you feel bad about waiting around and settling into a fresh set of seats. I always feel guilty, like I’m stealing from a Ugandan child rather than populating an otherwise empty theater to keep the custodians busy for another 5 minutes. Not that anyone will say anything to you as long as you stay on your toes and be sneaky about it, but I try to never find myself in that situation. I’m sure I’m supposed to frown on this kind of behavior as a critic, but until the theaters and the studios (are you listening, you guys?) start giving me free passes to see screenings like a respectable movie reviewer, then it shall stay in the back of my mind as an option. Hey, at least I’m buying a ticket for ONE movie.

The next question I ask, back to more respectable matters, is where to sit. Normally I try to stay in the middle for any other situation to get the full spectrum of media possibilities (audio, video, confetti, vibrating chairs), but when you’re all alone sometimes you just want to try things out, maybe freak out the one other guy in the theater with you. Every now and then I’ll either sit up close or really high up to spice things up. Even when I was a young impulsive brute, though, I could never sit in the first three rows. What are those for? Who would want to snap their own necks by sitting right there for two hours? And, a more important question, why would anyone put handicapped seating right there? Give them some room on one of the not-so-shitty rows farther away instead of insisting they get blasted away by the power of the movie going on three inches away from them?

The biggest question for me during a movie, though, is whether or not I can talk loud. I confess, gentle readers, that I am one of those people who annoy the piss out of you with their constant yammering. Me and my partner, the vivacious Bren, are always cracking jokes, laughing at inappropriate times, and making things slightly difficult for people for anyone in direct earshot. I feel we’re discreet enough, but some might disagree, and to those people I have to apologize by telling them to fuck off and have some fun at the movies (that’s what an apology is, right?). But the best part of an isolated movie theater experience is seeing that nobody else is there, waiting until the lights dim, and just raising your voice to obscene levels whenever you want. It’s the ultimate taboo!!!

I wish my experience today at the Rave Theater Yorktown 15 was as idyllic as all that. It certainly had the potential to be: the parking lot was empty, the lobby was Ghost Town, USA, and our theater itself started out pretty desolate. I thought things were looking up for Bren and I to cut up and let our hair down a little bit. Then, at the last possible moment, it turned into Family Hour. Three different families showed up, unnecessarily large families that virtually boxed us in from the rows in front of and behind us. Just when I thought I could smile and curse at a kid’s movie, as is my want, all of a sudden it turned into How Many Kids Can I Squeeze Next To A Grown Man Day at the Rave. And you know what the worst part was? In the row behind me, a girl wearing flip-flops had propped her feet up on the seat next to mine. They smelled considerably rank, and they stayed there for the ENTIRE MOVIE!!! WHY? WHY?! WHY?!?

Well, that’s all I have to report. See you tomorrow for Madea’s Family Reunion!

No, wait!!! That’s right! I saw a movie, didn’t I? I had better review it. Well, let me give you the quick version because it’s not remarkable enough to merit a full explanation. Well, Race To Witch Mountain is a remake of an old Disney movie that was interesting enough to the studio to rip apart like a dressed turkey and gouge out all the best parts with their bare hands. In this version, a down-on-his-luck taxi driver named Jack Bruno finds a couple of kids in his cab one day who aren’t exactly your ordinary tweenagers. They are actually aliens, and they need Jack Bruno’s help to get off the planet. They came here seeking a device that may save both their world and ours, and they find it, but they also find that their ship, a flying saucer, has been hijacked by the government. They have to get that device back to their world so they can save us as well as themselves, but with the government in the way, not to mention a mysterious alien assassin that wants to vaporize the kids, can down-on-his-luck cab driver Jack Bruno help the two alien tweens save the world?

The movie was VERY, VERY forgettable. Filled with cliche after cliche, it is just another kids action movie to pop in for attention-grabbing purposes once it comes out on DVD. It performs well enough, but it won’t be remembered by anybody for anything. It’s a throw-away experience, and I’m surprised I even remember this much of it to relate it to you. Kid movies, when done correctly (i.e. The Goonies), can be enjoyed by adults and be a memorable part of a family outing to be discussed and referenced long after one has left the theater. This is filler, meant to bolster a typically weak box-office season. I have no pity for a movie that could have been fun but wasted its potential, no matter what the intended key demographic was.

This is another step in the processing of former wrestler and cooking enthusiast (Do ya smell-la-la-la-la-la-la-low(!)…what The Rock…is cookin’?) Dwayne Johnson for the vox populi. Remember when he was billed straight up as just The Rock? Not too long ago, but soon that wouldn’t be good enough. He had to show his full name somewhere in this equation. That’s when he became Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Not bad, you would think. But no. He wanted more acceptance in the acting world, more validity to be sarcastic and chiseled at the same time on camera. So, starting with one of my favorite bad films ever, Southland Tales, he became just Dwayne Johnson, just an everyday muscle-bound schmoe. And now he’s making kids movies using the patented Hulk Hogan formula of wrestler+kids=HILARIOUS. It’s like we’re supposed to pretend all that decade of rasslin’ didn’t happen. Well, The “The Rock” Rock, people don’t forget.

Anyway, I’ve said too much. Drop your kids off to see this one of you want to get high for a couple hours behind the theater. Once you reunite, neither of you will remember what you were doing before you showed up. I give Race To Witch Mountain 4 1/2 smelly teenager feet out of 10. And if you see me at a theater and you have kids with you, don’t bring them too close to me unless you want them to hear me say things like, “His name is ‘The FUCKING Rock’, not Dwayne Johnson!” to my lady love.

Tomorrow we go to Texas and get shot at for the PSA, where we discuss No Country For Old Men!