'Runaways' misses beat, or two - The Explorer: El Sol

'Runaways' misses beat, or two

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Posted: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:18 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Creators Syndicate

'The Runaways'

Rated: R. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. 2.5 stars.

Like the pioneering all-girl rock band from Los Angeles it portrays, "The Runaways" at times exudes enough teen spirit and attitude to light up the Sunset Strip.

It also captures with vivid accuracy the look and feel of the mid-1970s, when The Runaways briefly ignited as an artistic force despite never scoring a hit record. The strong performances of "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart and precocious film veteran Dakota Fanning — who portray Runaways guitarist-singer Joan Jett and lead singer Cherie Currie, respectively — should draw viewers who weren't born until several decades after this band imploded in 1978 after only two albums.

Less illuminating is the threadbare book this uneven movie is based on, Currie's "Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway," which was published in 1989 in paperback only and has now been updated and reissued as a glossy hardback. That's a shame, since there's still a great film waiting to be made about this short-lived but highly influential band, which paved the way for the riot grrrl movement of the early 1990s and helped launch the solo careers of Runaways' guitarist-singers Joan Jett and Lita Ford.

Currie's own subsequent music solo career isn't noted in the movie's brief postscript, although her current, Spinal Tap-worthy career as a "chain saw artist" is. Then again, the postscript also omits any reference to Ford and every other alum of the band, except Jett, who is one of the co-producers of "The Runaways."

Only 15 when she joined the band, Currie was a striking young front-woman and a capable vocalist. Her sexed-up, "jailbait" stage persona — panties, bustier, black stockings and platform shoes — was created by the band's Svengali-like manager and mastermind, Kim Fowley.

Like the well-intentioned but similarly flawed 2008 music feature film "Cadillac Records," which co-starred Beyonce, "The Runaways" too often gets things wrong for no good reason, at least none that advances or improves the story.

The real hero of the band was the feisty, no-nonsense Jett, who plays second fiddle in the movie (but still fares much better than the other band members). That's no surprise, since Currie's book provides the bulk of the source material.

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