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The Witch Mountain adventure series gets updated here with the focus in this first installment squarely on Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson), the cab driver who picks up a couple of stray teens (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) in Las Vegas during a huge science fiction convention. It’s all so obviously ironic, of course, because with all of the fake aliens around, the real deal ends up with a cynical unbeliever like Jack, an ex-con and would-be car enthusiast.

Johnson’s easy charm makes a card stock player like Jack an agreeable cutout center.

He works well with young actors and a more seasoned performer like Carla Gugino as Dr. Alex Friedman, a practitioner of science fact versus fiction who helps Jack get the alien kids to their spaceship before time runs out. The special effects pile up, but Johnson remains the one human in the mix that doesn’t get lost in the flash and dash.

But this second outing with director Andy Fickman (The Game Plan) better be the last collaboration between the two for a while. If not, Johnson’s going to end up wasting all of the goodwill he’s built up doing more adult, rough-and-tumble work with action directors like Peter Berg. Why follow the same family-friendly path as Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin? Because like those two comedians, Johnson — be honest, The Rock was a comic creation more than a entertaining sports figure — might actually have the potential to scale the box office and critical mountain to real success. (tt stern-enzi) Grade: D