Funny thing: what I notice most about all those ads and posters for Race to Witch Mountain all over the place here in New York City -- apart from how fondly I remember going to see Escape to Witch Mountain at the drive-in when I was a kid -- is that the artist formerly known as The Rock is now just Dwayne Johnson. He has now, it seems, completed his John Cougar Mellencamp transformation from "The Rock" to "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson" to simply "Dwayne Johnson."
Good for him.
Too bad he can't similarly erase some of the stinkers in his filmography.
And that's a shame. Because he's one of the most charming guys on the screen at the moment, with an easy sense of humor about himself and that indefinable movie-star "It" that makes you want to laugh with him for a goofy 90 minutes. If Race to Witch Mountain has anything going for it -- and the trailer doesn't inspire much hope beyond this -- it's that it's lucky enough to be able to glom onto The Rock's -- er, I mean, Johnson's magic.
Dwayne Johnson: Top 3
1. The Rundown: With an irresistible twinkle in his eye and an amiably sly grin on his face, Johnson staked out the Action Hero corner as his own here as a big-dumb-lug with smarts. He did it with wit, with an inkling of class, and with a surprising lightness and limberness that should be at odds with his imposing physique, yet isn't.
2. Get Smart: Johnson's part is teeny-tiny as massive Agent 23, but it's a great example of his comic chops, so much so that you have to wish for the sequel to be all about him.
3. The Scorpion King: This cheesier-than-cheesy spin-off from the Mummy movies would have gone straight to the hell of Sci Fi Channel's Saturday night lineup sans Johnson as the most adorable mercenary assassin/future Hitler-esque warlord who, at the moment, is thrown off guard by cute kids and pretty girls.
But some films are so awful, they can't even manage that:
Dwayne Johnson: Bottom 3
1. Southland Tales: It's probably one of the worst movies of recent vintage, and Johnson's character -- an amnesiac action hero who wanders around a whoops-apocalypse version of near-future Los Angeles -- is one of the most poorly drawn. It's not Johnson's fault ... but even his immense screen magnetism can't save it.
2. The Game Plan: No guy who ever called himself "The Rock" should be seen in movies with little girls in little pink tutus. It's just wrong, and it's best forgotten. Or burned. Some devoted fan should dig up the masters of this and see to it that they are destroyed.
3. All that WWF stuff: It's not a movie, but there are endless hours of it available on DVD anyway. What the hell?
Meanwhile, I continue to await my dream movie, which stars Dwayne Johnson and Jackie Chan fighting bad guys and saving the world and being goofy together. That would be enough to forgive all.