Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes
by Laura Tucker
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I wish I had better news to report with this one. I had great hopes for it and was eager to watch it with my son. Sure, he’s 17 years old, but loves fantasy fiction, reading all the Harry Potter books the first day they came out, even before they started releasing them in movies. It’s just his type of thing. I thought he’d love Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes, but he found it just as unwatchable as I did.
I need to preface this first and say neither of us have what would be considered discerning taste, him less so than me. With at least three-quarters of the movies that come to the theater, he’s telling me, “Oh, I want to see that.” Which of course, it’s not possible to get him to all these movies. And with many movies that I’m so-so about, he’s telling me it’s one of the best movies he’s ever seen. That’s just how he is. And if you look over my reviews, you’ll find it very rare that I give overall negative reviews.
Yet, watching Billy Owens, there was something bothering me about it, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it past a few obvious things. There is horrible acting going on throughout in this film. The adults sound like they’re reading over their lines for the first time, sitting at their kitchen table. And the kids don’t fare too well here either. I tried to give them an excuse, thinking they were just kids after all, but there are a lot of child actors out there who could run circles around this crew.
Further troubling is that this is a sequel to a previous film, The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens. From reading the reviews, it didn’t fair any better. How do you get such horrible reviews on a film and decide you need to make a sequel to it? There isn’t even an IMDB.com entry for Secret of the Runes. I’m not sure of the process that gets films added to the database, so I’m not exactly sure who it is that’s deciding it’s not worthy.
The film is about a group of kids Billy, Devon, Mandy, and Danny (Dalton Mugridge, Ciara O’Hanlon, Christopher Fazio, Mikayla Ottonello), who count on Thurgood (WWE star Roddy Piper) to teach them magic. As Mandy says in the film, it’s real magic he’s teaching them, “not hocus pocus kind of stuff; I mean real magic.” They’re still kids, though, and do things like work on a making a tree fort and go to a carnival with their parents. They can’t win at any of the carnival games the right way, so use their magic to do so. This seems to only cause them trouble, such as having a ride they go on break down, leaving them in danger.
The kids go to find Thurgood and find him unconscious and read magic books to somehow realize it’s their fault this happened. They read that to bring Thurgood back, they need to insert an amulet into a scepter and defeat a wizard with the help of their school principal who gives them special charms to help guide them. Thurgood materializes to give them hints on how to help him as well, and tells them they’re the Lords of their domain, which only reminds me of Seinfeld’s “Master of Your Own Domain.” For some reason the parents and principal have no problem letting the kids go off on this dangerous mission all on their own, which includes searching through caves.
Added to all this is that throughout the film, I had the feeling I was watching a film that was dubbed, even though it wasn’t. The voices sounded like they were read and dubbed back in, and the movie that that type of a feeling, but it seemed like it was dubbed in English to English. It was just odd.
I’m hoping the filmmakers learn from their mistakes here to find that you can’t just write a story about kids using magic and have it be successful like Harry Potter. It has to have cohesive script and actors to carry it out.
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.
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