April 9, 2010 at 8:22 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'The Runaways' -- GRADE: C+

Review: Stewart sparkles, Fanning fizzles in 'Runaways'

Kristin Stewart is tough and hungry in the role of Joan Jett. (Apparition)

Quasi-innocent youth joins a band to break free from a bad background. Raucous fun is had climbing the ladder to success. Then drugs and booze enter the scene. Budding star becomes an addict and things go downhill.

That's the morality tale at the center of most movies about musicians, and sad to say it's also at the center of "The Runaways," the biopic that tracks the brief history of the all-girl rock group that made some noise and broke some ground in the mid-'70s.

Aside from following the clichéd (if real) storyline, "The Runaways" is plagued by something of a split personality, thanks to its two young stars.

Kristen Stewart ("Twilight") plays the young, ambitious Joan Jett, by far the most successful member of the band after it broke up. Stewart just plain nails the role -- she's tough, she's hungry and she loves playing rock star as much as she loves playing guitar. Stewart makes you want to watch the movie.

That's the good news. The bad news is former child star Dakota Fanning playing Cherie Currie, the group's lead singer and underage sex bomb.

Simply put, Fanning generates no heat, no matter how many fishnet stockings and corsets she tries on. As a result, the entire jailbait tease thing that Currie was selling comes off more pathetic than stirring.

Otherwise, "The Runaways" is pretty typical rock movie stuff, although Michael Shannon is hilarious as the band's raunchy Svengali, Kim Fowley.

Writer-director Floria Sigismondi, working from Currie's memoir, likes the odd outrageous moment and sexual innuendo; but really she's just spinning one more yarn about a nice girl devoured by celebrity, and the film suffers from that familiarity.

By the film's end, you really wish you'd seen Kristen Stewart starring in "The Joan Jett Story." Now that would rock.

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