Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Movie Review: Return from Witch Mountain

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story and good acting...
Cons: ...if you are willing to buy into the premise and the high camp factor.
The Bottom Line:
Campy but still fun
If you will buy into it
You will have a ball

"I'm from Witch Mountain."  "Sounds Like Some Hick Town."

When I finally watched the first movie in this series a few weeks back, I was only mildly entertained.  It seemed slow and I just didn't connect with it.  But I pressed on and watched Return from Witch Mountain.  Why?  Because I could get it for free from my local library.  I figured if nothing else, I'd have another item to review.  And the price was certainly right.  To my surprise, I found this to be an entertaining sequel that surpassed the original.

For those who haven't seen the original, (and I'm about to completely SPOIL it) it involves the journey of Tia and Tony, two orphans who discover their telepathic and telekinetic powers are because they are aliens.  Abandoned at birth, the first film ends with them finding their people on Witch Mountain.  (End SPOILERS for first movie.)

Tia (Kim Richards) and Tony (Ike Eisenmann) have returned from Witch Mountain to Los Angeles for a week of culture.  They'll get to spend their time touring museums and attending a concert or two.  But on their way to the hotel, their taxi runs out of gas.  When they both get a premonition that a man is about to fall to his death, Tony goes to rescue him.

Naturally, the man levitating in the air attracts the attention of those standing nearby.  Unfortunately for Tony, those nearby are mad scientist Victor (Christopher Lee) and his financier Letha (Bette Davis).  Victor is perfecting a devise that would put anyone wearing it under his complete control.  Naturally, the two know they can use Tony's powers to their benefit so they kidnap him.  Now Tia must team up with a gang of truant wanna be hooligans to try to find him.  Will her powers be enough to rescue her brother?

Now let's get something straight right from the start.  This isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination.  It's 70's Disney science fiction, which means it is heavy on camp.  But if you can put yourself in that mindset, you'll find it is highly entertaining.

Because Tia and Tony spend much of the film separated, the story moves quickly.  The action constantly cuts between what is happening to Tony and Tia and the hooligans' attempts to find him.  It also helps that there is very little prologue.  In fact, if you haven't seen the first, you will probably be lost.  This movie assumes you already know who these characters are and what they can do.

While the first movie was an attempt at action and comedy, this one seems to lean more heavily in the comedy direction.  Just about everything is played for laughs from a run in with another street gang early in the movie to the great gold robbery part way through.  When things do turn more serious for the climax, it does work.  And yes, there are some bits of comedy thrown into that more dramatic situation.

What made it work for me was the acting.  Ike Eisenmann spends most of the movie acting like a robot, but he's very good at it.  Kim Richards gets more material as Tia searching for him.  But Bette Davis and Christopher Lee are perfect as our money and power hungry villains.  They are menacing without being scary and play the camp aspect for laughs without being over the top.  I know these are not the performances that their fans will want to remember them for, but they absolutely work.

And I can't leave out the special effects.  This was made in the days before CGI.  While some of the effects are heavily dated and a bit laughable as a result, many of them actually hold up quite well and are still highly believable.

Having said all this, the movie does have some flaws.  The biggest to me is the fact that it presents a rose colored view of truancy and gangs.  Granted, this is a Disney film, so I'm not expecting realism, but I do feel slightly uneasy not mentioning the fact that the kids, at least at first, seem to want to become criminals.  Of course, they are reformed by the end (in a scene that becomes pretty preachy, if you ask me.)

My two roommates came home part way through my watching the movie and proceeded to mock it for a few minutes before leaving the room.  To be honest, I could understand their issues.   This is a story that only makes sense if you buy into the premise and the camp.  If you aren't willing to do either, don't even bother.

Which probably means this movie should be viewed by the target audience of kids or the young at heart.  They will find the enjoyment in Return from Witch Mountain.

No comments:

Post a Comment