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The Runaways DVD Review

The Runaways (2010) movie poster The Runaways

Theatrical Release: March 19, 2010 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Floria Sigismondi / Writers: Floria Sigismondi (screenplay), Cherie Currie (book "Neon Angel")

Cast: Kristen Stewart (Joan Jett), Dakota Fanning (Cherie Currie), Michael Shannon (Kim Fowley), Stella Maeve (Sandy West), Scout Taylor-Compton (Lita Ford), Alia Shawkat (Robin Robins), Riley Keough (Marie Currie), Johnny Lewis (Scottie), Tatum O'Neal (Cherie's Mom), Brett Cullen (Cherie's Dad), Brendan Sexton III (Derek), Keir O'Donnell (Rodney Bingenheimer)

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"Hey, Fanning, I'm doing this Joan Jett biopic next. You should totally play Cherie Currie."

That is how I like to imagine Kristen Stewart getting Dakota Fanning to co-star in The Runaways. Stewart became attached to portray iconic punk rocker Jett back in December 2008. Fanning signed on as Currie in March 2009,
which makes it conceivable for my hypothetical dialogue to have been uttered during rehearsals of the young actresses' first pairing, The Twilight Saga: New Moon. New Moon wrapped filming that May and just three weeks later, Stewart and Fanning were back in front of the cameras again to make The Runaways, a movie I'm convinced could claim the record for disproportion between news coverage and theatrical attendance.

A much-mentioned media fixture throughout the second year of Twilight film fever, The Runaways made a tiny little splash at the box office, earning back a third of its $10 million production budget from just 244 North American theaters. That performance can be chalked up less to disinterest than to disservice. Still finding its footing, young distributor Apparition didn't mount the wider campaign the picture might have sustained. Fortunately, matured child actors Stewart and Fanning have that vampire series to fall back on.

Fifteen-year-old Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) gives her bangs an uneven trim for a talent show makeover. Kristen Stewart plays tough teenaged punk rocker Joan Jett, an iconic character not conceived by Stephenie Meyer.

The Runaways is set in 1975. Tough girls from broken Los Angeles homes, 16-year-old Joan Jett and 15-year-old Cherie Currie encounter resistance to their efforts to be musical. "Girls don't play electric guitar," Jett is told. Currie gets pelted with paper and food while lip-synching to David Bowie at her school's talent show.

The teens meet one another when Jett's plan for an all-girl rock band is embraced by creepy producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon). Fowley decides that Currie fits the bill as a Brigitte Bardot-like lead singer. Thus, The Runaways are born.

The five-girl group starts small, sharing a single hotel room and playing for free. But their unique, raw act earns notice and soon secures a record deal and international gigs. Because it wouldn't be rock 'n roll without some sex and drugs, Jett and Currie experiment with bad behavior: uppers, downers, alcohol, cigarettes, and plenty of profanity. Dabbling in the self-destruction that often comes with young fame, the girls' actions threaten the future of the blossoming band.

Michael Shannon definitely makes a lasting impression as the band's freaky, irritable manager/record producer Kim Fowley. Hello Daddy, hello Mom, Dakota Fanning is your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb! (And so is her right shoulder's tattoo.)

The film is directed by Floria Sigismondi, an Italian-Canadian woman whose best-known prior credits are music videos for the likes of David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, and Sheryl Crow. Sigismondi, who wrote the screenplay from Currie's book Neon Angel, brings confidence and respect to the material, necessary ingredients for this not to feel like a half-assed behind-the-music melodrama. Still, The Runaways often treads a line of self-parody
and plays a touch too silly and unpolished to be taken entirely seriously. That might be inevitable for a story about young teenaged girls.

For the most part, Jett and Currie do not appear to be positive role models. However, that's practically a prerequisite for biopic treatment these days; no studio is about to tell Behind the Cardigan: The Fred Rogers Story. The Runaways doesn't exactly glamorize the foul antics of its heroines, but at the same time, the lifestyle is seen as a fun escape from challenging adolescence. The film is less concerned with assessing its leads than in transporting us to a time and place. In that regard, it succeeds and the mindsets are easy to appreciate even if you're not crazy about the music and hard-edged attitudes.

I'm not familiar enough with the dramatized personalities to say how much verisimilitude the three lead actors bring to their parts. Remarkably the right age despite her youthful appearance, Fanning, still determined to shock viewers with edgy grown-up fare, at times seems too innocent for the part, but that evidently was Currie's nature. Stewart, out to prove she's capable of more than the lip-biting angst of her signature franchise, puts on airs more transparently. Meanwhile, with the film's most committed performance, Michael Shannon ensures that we'll be creeped out by him for some time.

The Runaways is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Apparition's video distributor, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Buy The Runaways on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: July 20, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $27.96
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Runaways looks and sounds great on DVD. Clean beyond the ample deliberate grain, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer shows off the film's pleasing attention to period detail and fashions. The movie really does right in turning the clocks back 35 years to the featured era's grungy punk stylings. The elaborate recreation is never doubted but it's also not excessively dwelled upon. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack rock out as you'd expect (giving us a little more of "Cherry Bomb" than needed; full song list at bottom of review). The peaks and valleys are reasonable and the music is presented with gusto befitting it.

The real Joan Jett stands next to Kristen Stewart portraying her in this photo from "Plugged In: Making the Film." At age 50, Cherie Currie reveals she's still a bit of a sex kitten in her featurette interviews.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD's average special features slate kicks off with an audio commentary, one which might very well interest those whose eyes normally glaze over the words "audio commentary." That's because this one features stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning alongside Joan Jett herself, who executive-produced the movie. Jett doesn't fully embrace the role of storyteller, speaking as viewer/producer as often as subject.


Listen to songs from The Runaways:
She does, however, share some facts, while Fanning and cuss-happy Stewart talk more about the film's production.

"Plugged In: Making the Film" (15:35) is a solid companion piece that gathers comments from the cast, crew, and Cherie Currie (compensating for her commentary absence). Touching upon both the production and the real inspiration, it details the stars' collaboration with the rockers they portray.

"The Runaways" (2:15) is a similar but promotional short with more clips and comments. It almost makes up for the movie's missing theatrical trailer.

The Blu-ray's exclusives are limited to BD-Live features including movieIQ+sync with some kind of Runaways playlist.

The DVD opens with a Blu-ray/BD-Live promo and trailers for Chloe, The Square, Kristen Stewart's Welcome to the Rileys, and Stomp the Yard: Homecoming. The Previews menu holds the first two trailers along with ads for Harry Brown, The Bounty Hunter, "The Pillars of the Earth", Get Low, and Youth in Revolt.

The static menus place cut-out black & white character photos against a hazy color backdrop.

"Are you young and rebellious enough to love The Runaways?" A magazine's headline question could perhaps also be applied to the film.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Runaways is better than "Twilight girls playing '70s rockers" but not good enough to go down as one of the great music biopics. There is solid direction, spot-on period recreation, minimum fiction, and some nice moments, but the film falls a little short of the high goals it sets for itself.

Most viewers around the ages of the leading ladies should be won over. Those already in the know regarding The Runaways may be a little disappointed that more of the story isn't included, but at least what is dramatized (and compressed) appears to remain fairly true to the facts.

Sony's DVD delivers a fine feature presentation and the Joan Jett and stars' audio commentary is a welcome touch, but fans will be bummed not to get any deleted scenes or the movie's "Cherry Bomb" music video.

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The Runaways: Music from the Motion Picture CDBuy from Amazon.com

Download from Amazon.com (with digital booklet)

Download from iTunes

The Runaways Songs List (in order of use): Nick Gilder - "Roxy Roller", Wanda Jackson - "Fujiyama mama", Kristen Stewart and Hannah Marks - "The Wild One", Suzi Quatro - "The Wild One", Kristen Stewart and Robert Romanus - "Old Smoky", David Bowie - "Lady Grinning Soul", Gary Glitter - "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)", The MCS - "It's a Man's Man's Man's World", The Yo and Flo Orchestra - "Say It Like You Mean It", David Bowie - "Rebel Rebel", Kristen Stewart, Stella Maeve and Michael Shannon - "I Wanna Be Where the Boys Are", Kristen Stewart and Stella Maeve- "Wild Thing", Peggy Lee - "Fever", Iggy & The Stooges - "Gimme Danger", The Runaways - "Hollywood", Dakota Fanning - "Cherry Bomb", The Runaways - "Cherry Bomb", The Runaways - "You Drive Me Wild", Dakota Fanning - "California Paradise", Kristen Stewart and Stella Maeve - "Queens of Noise", Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart - "Dead End Justice", Don McLean - "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)", Kristen Stewart - "I Love Playin' with Fire", The Stooges - "I Wanna Be Your Dog", The Runaways - "School Days", The Runaways - "I Wanna Be Where the Boys Are", Sex Pistols - "Pretty Vacant", Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning - "Don't Abuse Me", Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "I Want You", The Runaways - "Secrets", Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "Love Is Pain", The Runaways - "C'mon", Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "Crimson and Clover", Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "I Love Rock n' Roll", Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "Bad Reputation"

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Reviewed July 24, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Apparition, River Road Entertainment, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.