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Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes
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Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes (2010)
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Movie Review by Mike Thomas
April 25th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Incredible Rip-Off

Favorite Movie Quote: "How you doin'?"

Success begats imitation, from the 2005 rip-off of Steven Spielberg's WAR of the WORLDS by David Michael Latt to the TRANSFORMERS wannabe, TRANSMORPHERS by Leigh Scott. These movies were cheaply made, went direct to video, and made - enough - money. Enough that BOTH these movies have either had a sequel, or a sequel is in the works.

From this cinematic avarice, we get BILLY OWENS and the SECRET of the RUNES, the sequel to the direct-to-video The MYSTICAL ADVENTURES of BILLY OWENS, an obvious Harry Potter rip-off. The story continues the adventures of Billy Owens (Dalton Mugridge), born on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at eleven in the morning, who upon his eleventh birthday is bestowed a magic wand by a kindly pawn shop keeper, William Thurgood, played with obvious Albus Dumbledore overtones by former WWF and action movie superstar, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.

The story picks up the summer after as Harry Pot- I mean, Billy Owens and his friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, I mean Devon Turner (Christopher Fazio) and Mandy Finch (Ciara O'Hanlon) spend their summer vacation honing their craft with Dumbledo-, uh Thurgood. One night, at a carnival, Mandy is given an amulet by a minion of Lucius Malfoy (I keep doing that), Victor Mould (Paul Germs), which is designed to capture Thurgood's soul in order to find the Treasure of Loki. So our gang has to go on a perilous journey to find the enchanted staff that will free Dumb- Thurgood's soul. From this point on, Thurgood forsakes the Dumbledore comparison and becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi, as his spirit materializes during crucial parts of the movie to spout nearly incoherent "Yoda-like" Jedi-babble. While we're in Jedi mode, there is also an exciting sword fight during the climax of the movie. Along for the ride is Mandy's cousin, Dannie (Mikayla Ottonello, who in the first movie was merely "Girl Guide"), who willingly accepts the danger that the rest of the gang is putting her through, because "family sticks together, no matter what." I know these kids are kids and look like kids but Devon mistakes Dannie for a guy. Even at that age, if you're not trying to hid the a fact you're a girl, it should be very, very obvious. No boy that age could be that oblivious. However, for the rest of the movie, he makes up for it by constantly hitting on her, using singles bar pick-up lines. Oh, and we have our Draco Malfoy character in the form of Luci- Mould's lackey, Kurt Nemees (Jordan Goulet).

They follow the usual perils and death-defying dangers, and eventually they prevail. Roll Credits.

Now, movie rip-offs are a fact of life. Some are actually watchable. This one is not. The story is passable, but the actors read their lines as if they are reading them off cue cards for the very first time. Some of the longer passages by the actors sound like they're reading directly from Wikipedia. Also Barry Cowan, the writer hasn't a clue how kids should talk. They sound like adults as they regurgitate their lines. Hugh Hefner in MISS MARCH was more entertaining in his line delivery, and he got this year's Razzie as the Worst Performance by a Supporting Actor. The adults in the movie except for Piper, who was the Executive Producer, really don't have much to do. They just come on camera from time to time with a supporting line, then off to the trailer they go. It doesn't bother then in the least that their children are going on a perilous, two-day journey where they could be horribly killed.

I don't blame the kids. For the entire lead cast, Billy Owens was their first full-length movie. In the outtakes, they showed that they can be real kids with real kid emotions. If director McNabb took the time to help train these kids, or spend some of Roddy's money doing additional takes until they sounded something like their outtakes, maybe the dialogue wouldn't sound like a recitation from a grade-school play.

On my new rating scale of 5 being drop everything and see the movie now; if you're female, bear the producers' children and 0 being burn down the theater, murder the movie staff, and violate their dog, this movie rates a 0; don't let Roddy subject us to another one of these travesties. But unfortunately, Nickelodeon and every other kiddie channel is constantly looking for affordable projects to put on their networks. Since the first movie had legs, the second on is sure to be picked up, and the short attention span of our children today may keep this series going for as long as the real Harry Potter.

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