Race to Witch Mountain

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Race to Witch Mountain
Directed by Andy Fickman
Produced by Andrew Gunn
Screenplay by Matt Lopez
Mark Bomback
Story by Matt Lopez
Based on Escape to Witch Mountain
by Alexander Key
Starring Dwayne Johnson
AnnaSophia Robb
Carla Gugino
Ciarán Hinds
Alexander Ludwig
Tom Everett Scott
Chris Marquette
Music by Trevor Rabin
Cinematography Greg Gardiner
Edited by David Rennie
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • March 11, 2009 (2009-03-11) (Egypt)
  • March 13, 2009 (2009-03-13) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million[1]
Box office $106.4 million[2]

Race to Witch Mountain is a 2009 American family adventure film and a remake of the 1975 Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain, which is based on the 1968 novel of the same name by Alexander Key. The film is directed by Andy Fickman and stars Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Ciarán Hinds, and Carla Gugino.[3]

Filming began in Los Angeles in March 2008. It was released on March 13, 2009.


An alien spaceship crashes near Searchlight, Nevada, outside Las Vegas. Project Moon Dust, a secret Defense Department unit led by Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds), arrives in black helicopters. Men in Black seize the ship and search for its passengers.

Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is a former mob get-away driver who drives a cab to avoid returning to jail. One of his passengers is Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), a failed scientist who is in Las Vegas to speak at a UFO convention at the Planet Hollywood hotel.

After resisting two thugs who seek his services for a mob boss, Bruno finds two teenagers, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), in his cab. They offer $15,000 to drive to a certain destination. Burke's men follow the cab; Bruno believes that the government agents are more mob thugs, and evades them with his driving skills. Seth's ability to vary his molecular density helps the group to escape.

When they arrive at an abandoned house, Bruno follows them out of concern and curiosity. The teenagers retrieve the device they were looking for within a hidden underground laboratory, but the three are attacked by a "Siphon" (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), a powerful armored alien assassin. The Siphon pursues the group until its spaceship crashes into a train and the creature is wounded. The three again escape Burke's agents, in part due to Sara's telepathy and telekinetics.

The teenagers explain to Bruno that they are from a dying planet 3,000 light years from Earth. Its government intends to invade Earth, despite the idea being unpopular among the majority of their race, so that their kind may survive. Seth and Sara's parents are scientists who sought a way to save their planet without invasion but were arrested before completing their experiment. The teenagers came to retrieve the successful results, but the alien government sent the assassin to stop them. To save both worlds, they must retrieve their spaceship and return home.

Bruno brings Seth and Sara to Dr. Friedman at the UFO convention, who realizes that the teenagers are what she has been searching for and joins the group. Fellow UFOlogist and conspiracy theorist Dr. Donald Harlan (Garry Marshall) tells them that the spaceship was taken to the secret California government base Witch Mountain. Harlan and his men distract the soldiers with Bruno's taxi while the others escape to Witch Mountain on Harlan's RV. The group arrives at the base but are captured; Burke orders that the teenagers be prepared for vivisection, but frees the adults as no one will believe their story.

The Siphon attacks Witch Mountain and battles the soldiers, allowing Bruno and Friedman to infiltrate the base and free Seth and Sara. They launch the ship, escape through the mountain's tunnels, and finally kill the assassin who has stowed away on the spaceship. The teenagers give Bruno and Friedman a tracking device that will allow the aliens to always find them, tearfully wish them farewell, and return to their planet.

Bruno and Friedman become successful authors of Race to Witch Mountain: A True Story. They promote their book and knowledge on the UFO convention circuit, explaining that the publicity protects them from government reprisal. As they leave a convention the alien device activates, implying that the teenagers may be returning to Earth.


Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, who portrayed Tia and Tony in the original Witch Mountain films of the 1970s, made cameo appearances in Race to Witch Mountain. Richards appears as a roadhouse waitress (named "Tina," a minor change from the character [Tia] she played in the 1975 and 1978 films) and Eisenmann appears as Sheriff Anthony. Meredith Salenger, the star of Disney's 1985 adventure The Journey of Natty Gann has a cameo as a TV reporter named "Natalie Gann."[13][14]


In July 2007, Walt Disney Pictures hired Andy Fickman to direct Witch Mountain, a "modern re-imagining" of Escape to Witch Mountain, using a script by Matt Lopez.[15] The following August, Dwayne Johnson (most notably famous for portraying The Rock in the WWE) was cast into a lead role, with filming scheduled to begin in March 2008.[4] Fickman did not describe the film as a remake, defining his production as "a new chapter within the world of Witch Mountain". The director also described the book, in which the films are based as "a very cool dark thriller" and anticipated drawing elements from it that did not exist in the 1975 film.[16] By March 2008, filmmakers were using a new script written by Mark Bomback.[17] The film was re-titled Race to Witch Mountain, and it began filming in Los Angeles in the same month.[8]

The convention center in Pomona, California was converted into the film's UFO Expo 9, and the interior of Witch Mountain was designed using photographs from a tour of NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex.[11] A cabin for the story was also built in Agua Dulce, California.[18] The director sought assistance from UFO experts, the military, and CIA advisers to shape the elements of the film.[19] He also introduced a new element in the remake, an extraterrestrial creature called Siphon. The creature was conceived by the design team who created the looks for Alien and Predator in the film Alien vs. Predator.[12]


Offspring song "Stuff is Messed Up" and Future World Music song "Heart Of Fury" were used in promos for the movie. The score to Race to Witch Mountain was composed by Trevor Rabin, who recorded his score with a 78-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony and a 24-person choir at the Sony Scoring Stage.[20] Two of the songs in the film were written and performed by country and western band Brokedown Cadillac, which appears briefly in an opening scene.

The film also features the hit single "Fly on the Wall" by Miley Cyrus and "Emergency" by Hollywood Records artist Steve Rushton, featured on the soundtrack.

Home media

Race to Witch Mountain was released on DVD and Blu-ray August 4, 2009 in three different sets; first, a single disc containing a wide-screen version of the film with no bonus features; second, a Deluxe-Edition that contains deleted scenes as well as other bonus features and a Digital Copy; third, a Blu-ray release with the same extras as the Deluxe Edition, along with a DVD copy of the film and a Digital Copy in the Blu-ray format.


Critical response

Reviews for Race to Witch Mountain have been mixed. Based on 151 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 43% rating from critics, with an average score of 5.1/10.[21] Metacritic the film has received an average score of 52, based on 28 reviews.[22]

Box office

Despite the mixed outcome, the film turned out to be a box office hit. It became the first Disney film in 2009 to open at #1, grossing $24.4 million. The film would go on to gross over $67 million at the North American domestic box office, and over $39 million internationally, for a total of $106 million.[23]


  1. "Yep, He's Big". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  2. "Race to Witch Mountain (2009)". The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  3. "Race to Witch Mountain". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  4. 1 2 Fleming, Michael (August 28, 2007). "The Rock set for 'Witch Mountain'". Variety. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  5. 1 2 Perkis, Ed (July 31, 2008). "Comic Con: Interview With The Stars And Director Of Witch Mountain". Cinemablend.com. Cinema Blend, LLC. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Goldstein, Gregg (March 14, 2008). "Carla Gugino scratches "Witch" itch". Reuters. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  7. Chen, Sandie Angulo (October 2, 2008). "Andy Fickman". Variety. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  8. 1 2 "Irishman Hinds playing bad guy in "Witch" redo". Reuters. March 4, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  9. 1 2 "Set Visit: Race to Witch Mountain - Part Two". IGN. News Corporation. July 21, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  10. Lee, Patrick (July 30, 2008). "Witch's Gugino Chases UFOs". Sci Fi Wire. Sci Fi Channel. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Chupnick, Steve (July 16, 2008). "Race to Witch Mountain Set Visit: Part I". ComingSoon.net. Coming Soon Media, L.P. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  12. 1 2 "Set Visit: Race to Witch Mountain — Part One". IGN. News Corporation. July 16, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  13. Kit, Borys (April 29, 2008). ""Witch Mountain" kids return for remake". Reuters. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  14. John Hough (1975). Escape to Witch Mountain (Motion picture). The Walt Disney Company.
  15. Kit, Borys (July 23, 2007). "Director Fickman to conjure "Witch" redo". Reuters. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  16. Adler, Shawn (September 25, 2007). "AnnaSophia Robb To Climb 'Witch Mountain'". MTV Movies Blog. MTV. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  17. "Carla Gugino Joins Race to Witch Mountain". ComingSoon.net. Coming Soon Media, L.P. March 14, 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  18. Newgen, Heather (August 4, 2008). "Race to Witch Mountain Set Visit: Fickman & Gunn". ComingSoon.net. Coming Soon Media, L.P. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  19. Vejvoda, Jim (July 24, 2008). "SDCC 08: IGN Scales Witch Mountain". IGN. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  20. Dan Goldwasser (2009-02-18). "Trevor Rabin scores Race to Witch Mountain". ScoringSessions.com. Retrieved 2009-02-18.
  21. "Race to Witch Mountain Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  22. "Race to Witch Mountain (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  23. Race to Witch Mountain at Box Office Mojo
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