From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Runaways - C

Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content - all involving teens, 109 minutes

"The Runaways": great music, dull movie

The rock group The Runaways were pioneers in the world of music. They were among the first all-girl rock groups in a world dominated by men. And we all know that the awesome Joan Jett went on to sing the anthem "I Love Rock and Roll." If only the uneven movie version of "The Runaways" were as interesting and fun as their music. While it certainly evokes feelings of the 1970's, unsurprisingly the best thing about this uninvolving, boring rock biopic is the music and "Twilight's" Kristen Stewart.

L.A. teenagers Joan Jett (Stewart) and Sandy West (Stella Maeve) are introduced to renowned rock music producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) in 1975, and they come together to form The Runaways, an all-girl rock group, a pioneering idea at the time. They audition a number of girls for the lead singer, and finally decide on the young, inexperienced Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), who has a David Bowie look and charm to her and a terrible family life. Before long, The Runaways land a recording contract and continue to rise in popularity, though the relationships in the band, especially between Currie and Jett, threaten to ruin all they worked for.

The music is the real reason to watch "The Runaways," even if the unrevealing story goes down the same rags to riches story that most in this genre go down (not to mention, they play The Runaways hit "Cherry Bomb" way too many times in the movie). Stewart is a true inspiration as Jett, and from her hair to doing her own singing, she effectively channels a young Jett, who went on to much greater fame after this. However, the casting of Fanning is a mixed blessing for the young actress, who also co-starred with Stewart in "New Moon." It's certainly marks a grown-up change for the actress and she tackles the role with aplomb (like Stewart, she does her own singing and handles the tunes well), though the role could've been more effectively played by a more mature actress.

After an interesting start, "The Runaways" pacing is too slow in the middle section and the lack of sharp directing and writing from Italian filmmaker Floria Sigismondi doesn't invest enough time in the Currie-Jett relationship; you don't much care when the band goes their own way. Shannon rips through every scene he's in as the eccentric producer Fowley (who's efforts here are probably a bit overstated), and while he's very good, he at times seems to be acting in a completely different movie. And yes, that's Tatum O' Neal playing Currie's mother in a very brief role.

The disjointed "The Runaways" could've been more powerful and relevant with a more experienced director and writer, though this is an admirable story that should've been told years ago. The costumes and sets are '70s mod, while the film's soundtrack is full of great Runaways tunes, though it may be worth checking out the original tunes.