Blu-ray
Give it a Rent
3 stars
Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Give it a Rent

Race to Witch Mountain

Street Date:
August 4th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
July 30th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Length:
98 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Disney's 'Race to Witch Mountain' is the story of two alien kids, one buff cab driver, and one very resilient taxi.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, plays friendly Las Vegas cab driver Jack Bruno. Driving a cab in Vegas is Jack's life. He lives in a run-down motel and is trying to make an honest living. He's visited by some local organized crime thugs. Apparently he had a different life as a "wheel man" before going clean and getting an honest job. All he wants to do is drive a cab. Is that too much to ask?

Well it is when two children mysteriously appear in the back of his cab, and with a wad of money, tell Jack to take them "that way."

From the otherworldly crash at the beginning of the film, and the subsequent government cover-up, we quickly surmise that these are not just ordinary kids. The girl can move stuff with her mind, and the boy can pass through solid walls.

The world is in danger. These aliens must reach their destination in time to stop the destruction of earth. They are pursued by an alien assassin who is oddly similar, both in weaponry and style, to a Predator sans dreadlocks.

A super-secret government agency is also chasing the kids, but they seem to be inept at doing anything. The real suspense is provided by the alien assassin.

Action scenes are aplenty here. They are bright, bold, and loud. Lots of explosions, fires, and gun fights, but all kept within PG standards.

Johnson provides a bit of charm to the film, like he always does. He's not just another wrestler turned actor. He's been doing this acting thing for a while now and knows how to get laughs, and how to deliver a believable performance. The kids are also fairly charming, even with their non-emotional alien-like attitudes.

'Race to Witch Mountain' is an action flick made for children. It's exciting enough to keep them interested, but wholesome enough that you don't have to worry about leaving them alone to watch it.

The movie does what it intends to do, which is to entertain on a childish level. Some of the action may even captivate the adults. Sure, there's not much substance here, but that's not the goal, 'Race to Witch Mountain' just wants to entertain. Is that too much to ask?

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Race to Witch Mountain' is presented with an AVC-encoded 1080p transfer that will disappoint occasionally and dazzle frequently. But, for a Disney Blu-ray release this one seems a bit sub-par.

While technical anomalies are kept out of sight for the most part, noticeable edge enhancement does pop up every now and then. The real problem with this transfer is that delineation really, really suffers. Shadows are all over the place, and blend far too much with darker backgrounds, making dark scenes are so muddled and murky that it's hard to watch at times. At one point the main characters travel into a dimly lit underground cavern and almost everything turns an inky black with no contrast between the lighter grays and the darkest blacks. It's like one big black blob.

Other than the delineation problem the rest of the PQ is near top-notch. Textures, faces (in lighter scenes), and fine details are all clear and precise. The HD quality may even be a little too good at times, as it gives an extremely clear picture that isn't kind to some of the underwhelming CGI effects. One scene, in which the girl stops a barrage of bullets with her mind is fairly aggravating because it looks just so fake.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 fares quite a bit better than the picture quality. With such a frequently fast-paced movie, full of car chases and big explosions, the surround track here features an array of sounds all presented clearly.

Even with cars crashing into each other, and alien ships shooting loud bursts of blue energy, this soundtrack manages to make all the dialogue intelligible. There are a few minor moments where lower dialogue is a little hard to hear, but nothing that is really distracting.

Sound effects like a helicopter traveling across the screen pan quite nicely from speaker to speaker, providing the audience with an immersive effect. The sub-woofer remains quite active, providing bursts of bass during the most intense scenes. The rear channels round out the audio experience with a forceful injection of ambient sound that further immerses the viewer in the film.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

This is far below Disney standards, and what we as consumers have come to expect from their Blu-ray releases in terms of special features. While the package looks bulky, like it's filled with goodies for the viewer, it's just a few extra discs (DVD and digital copy).

  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 23 min) - There's a pretty exhaustive set of deleted scenes with introductions from the director. It's fairly obvious why these were cut.
  • Blooper Reel (SD, 4 min) - A short, semi-amusing collection of bloopers is contained on the disc. They're somewhat funny, but are over before you even know it. At 4 minutes you just begin to laugh and it's done.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Which Mountain? (HD, 8 min) - There's a BD exclusive here, but like the blooper reel it's just way too short. It's an interesting supplement, but it seems like it was thrown together instead of well-thought out. Andy Fickman, the film's director, takes us on a short journey through the references to the earlier Disney films "Escape to Witch Mountain" and "Return to Witch Mountain" that are located in the new film. Eight minutes really isn't enough to get us fully invested in the supplement. At best it's an interesting, yet glossed over feature that could've been fleshed out more.

Final Thoughts

'Race to Witch Mountain' sets out to entertain a younger audience, and with that it succeeds. Adults may find it a bit corny, and some of the action a bit over-the-top, but kids are sure to be engrossed in this wholesome action flick (I can't believe I used the phrase "wholesome action flick").

While the picture leaves much to be desired on the delineation front, the audio delivers a solid sound track that will immerse any viewer young or old. With the fun action, charming characters, and good morals this would be a good title for parents to own so their children can watch it any time they want. Other viewers who are mildly interested should probably just rent it and see what they think.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50
  • BD/DVD Combo (3-disc set)
  • Region A

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.39:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Chinese
  • Thai
  • Korean
  • Bahasa
  • Malay
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Deleted scenes
  • Blooper Reel
  • DVD Copy
  • Digital Copy

Exclusive HD Content

  • Backstage Disney
  • D-Box