Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes


Dir: Mark McNabb
Star: Dalton Mugridge, Christopher Fazio, Ciara O’Hanlon, Roddy Piper

You may remember our review of the original, which was basically the critical equivalent of a going-over in a dark alley, with baseball bats. Well, the Community Players Group of Sarnia are back with a sequel. And it's a distinct improvement on the original. Ok, while we are still not talking "good", by any standards applicable outside Sarnia city limits, viewing it didn't leave me with the urge to drive nails repeatedly into my cerebral cortex, in a desperate attempt to destroy the experience, which I felt last time. It does remain a cheap Harry Potter rip-off, with Billy (Mugridge) once again embarking on an adventure, this time to try and rescue the soul of his magic teacher William Thurgood (Piper), which has been sucked into a necklace. The kids have three days to save him, though they demonstrate a complete lack of urgency, meandering around a horse0farm and improving their tree-fort, rather than doing anything productive on the Thurgood-rescuing front.

Areas of improvement. 1) The cinematography is decent, and makes the locations look like a nice place to visit. 2) The script restrains itself from over-reaching beyond what the makers can provide e.g. no woefully inadequate dragon battle, though they should perhaps have skipped Billy flying. 3) It's mostly focused on the kids, so at least you don't have bad adult actors as well. 4) Iain Kelso's soundtrack is pleasant, though appears to have strayed in from a completely different movie. Still bad. 1) Dialogue for the children which sounds either like it was improvised on the spot, or was written for them by a college professor. Hard to say which is worse. 2) Awful pacing. As noted, there's no sense of urgency, and you can't even tell how much time has passed, since the central characters seem to wear the same clothes for the entire period, supposedly three days, over which events unfold. 3) Inept action sequences. While the idea of a swordfight may have seemed a good one, the execution resembles a play fight staged by two disinterested eleven-year olds. Which, I guess, is exactly what it is.

It's not as actively painful as last time, and there is enough improvement to make me think that, if this is maintained, then the series could eventually become worthwhile [even if Billy Owens will probably need to be a middle-aged accountant by that point]. However, at the moment, the conclusion is much the same as last time: if you're looking for a film "like" Harry Potter, why not rent Harry Potter?

[The film was released on DVD by MTI Home Video on May 11th, and is widescreen. For more information, please visit the MTI website.]

C-
[May 2010]


A bad case of the runes
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