The most shocking thing about "The Runaways" is how tame it feels.
After all, the real-life story of the Runaways, the groundbreaking all-girl rock band, is a wild one, filled with larger-than-life characters, including the great Joan Jett, singer Cherie Currie and their manager, Kim Fowley. However, though "The Runaways" takes place during the promiscuous, drug-fueled late '70s, much of it seems oddly restrained, alternating between art-house film and after-school special - especially when Jett takes on her guitar teacher and when Currie mimes David Bowie for a school assembly.
Aside from Fowley's graphic rocker boot-camp insults, greasily delivered by Michael Shannon, and a few cocaine-snorting scenes with Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Currie (Dakota Fanning), "The Runaways" doesn't really reflect the bombast of the band's music or its aggressive, often combative sexuality.
Instead, it is dominated by claustrophobic rehearsal scenes in the band's trailer, in overcrowded clubs and in small recording studios. Director Floria Sigismondi, best known for her videos with Marilyn Manson and the White Stripes, occasionally throws in some music video visuals to shake things up, but not nearly enough to reflect the material.
That's not to say "The Runaways" isn't entertaining. Stewart and Fanning are excellent - definitely believable as rockers, with vocals that match up nicely to the originals, and as troubled teens looking for a way to fit in. But it all comes up a bit short.
"The Runaways" is cool, but the Runaways were just so much cooler.