Runaways is highly reminiscent of another recent film, Therese: The Story of Saint Therese de Lisieux. Superficially, the two could not be more different. Runaways takes place in the present and is about a boy trying to deal with life on the streets. Therese is the biography of St. Therese, a highly popular figure in Catholic culture. What the two films have in common is an earnest desire to make a good film, hampered by mediocre production quality and downright horrendous acting, particularly in the case of Runaways. This is the type of film one sees during an after school special. It is based on actual events, but retells them in a simplistic and heavy-handed manner.

The worst offenders are the adults. Pretty much every adult figure in Runways overacts to the point of comedy, or underacts to the point of boredom. This is especially evident any time there is shouting. Brent Bambic doesn't provide adequate direction, so all of the actors look and sound ridiculous every time they are angry. They are loud and gesticulate wildly, effectively ruining any tension Bambic wanted in the scene. Arielle Paul is the only teen actor with this problem. The star, Austin O'Brien (Only Once, Lawnmower Man 2) is marginally better, but still is not convincing. The only time is he is is near the beginning, when he finds himself in a youth detention facility, and his character, Steve, is highly confused. O'Brien's confusion is a little too good here. He's confused and angry that his mother abandoned him there, and the people around him think he's on drugs.

Steve's living situation is bad. His mother's boyfriend beats him repeatedly. When Steve tried to run away, his mother lied about what happened, blaming Steve instead of her boyfriend. Off goes Steve to Hollywood, where he has a temporary place to stay and enrolls in high school. He wants to live a normal life, but, according to him, it's difficult to do normal things like play for the basketball team when housing isn't assured. His living arrangement doesn't work out, but he does find a spot in a shelter, where he meets Mike (Demetrius Navarro, The Wash, Rave) and Andy (Esteban Powell, Bel Air, Deal of a Lifetime). In order to stay, he needs his mother's permission, must follow all of the rules (including a strict curfew), find a part-time job, and look for a permanent residence. This is just the type of stability that Steve needs, and he begins to piece his life back together. He also meets Sally (Paul), and the two begin dating.

Again, all of the intentions behind Bambic's film are pure. He wants to show that it is possible for teens to find their way out of a bad situation. It may be extraordinarily difficult, but it is possible, and it is absolutely worth the work. There is even some public service announcement-like text at the end before the credits. Nevertheless, the film retains an amateurish feel to it, partially due to the acting and partially due to the plot. It feels like Bambic wants to show the entire spectrum of what can happen to runaways. One, through some good luck, is able to move on to much better things, while another ends up turning tricks for cash. The audience always feels like they are watching a scripted film; nothing feels 'real.' Bambic is able to generate a decent deal of sympathy for Steve, and everybody wants him to have a better life. Still, Runaways is just a bunch of good intentions wrapped in a bad film.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Not Rated but contains language, teen drinking, and drug use, an easy R.

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