Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes Movie Poster Image
Poorly made Harry Potter wannabe is boring and awful.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

"The nobility of your selflessness is directly proportional to the strength of your power." "The end of ignorance and greed give us the opportunity to right ancient wrongs." "Greed is a merciless taskmaster."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The kids try to help their teacher escape entrapment for eternity in an amulet. Mandy has learned much from reading books. The children agree to sacrifice their powers in exchange for getting Thurgood back.

Violence & Scariness

A man seems to be trapped inside an amulet. The disembodied head of a bully with magic powers flies around yelling at children. Devon has a sword fight to keep Kurt out of the lighthouse. Kids slide down a magic rope from the top of a light house. The kids fall through a secret door into a grotto, but no one is harmed. The children act frightened at the discovery of a dragon swimming nearby, even though it's clear that the "dragon" is nothing more than a drawing of a dragon wriggling below them. Another moment is apparently meant to be suspenseful and/or scary: Someone yells, "Run," but as there is no apparent threat, there is also no suspense or scariness. At another point, scary music plays while the kids stand around calmly.

Sexy Stuff
Language

"Puke," "shut up," "idiot," "half-wit," "dweeb."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Billy Owens and the Secret of the Runes is a sequel to The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens. There is nothing that will offend kids in this Harry Potter wannabe, except for the fact that it is so terribly boring and badly made. Expect to hear the words "puke," "idiot," and "dweeb." There is some mild peril but nothing truly scary to most tweens.

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What's the story?

Three friends take summer magic lessons from a teacher named Thurgood (Roddy Piper). Mandy (Ciara O'Hanlon), a studious little girl, narrates, and despite the fact that she seems the dominant character, the movie is named after an unprepossessing boy named Billy (Dalton Mugrudge), who has no discernible personality. The kids seem to have magical powers of their own, although the evidence is scant as the special effects demonstrating their powers are pretty low-tech and unconvincing.  At some point a mysterious amulet appears, and, for reasons not entirely clear, it swallows up Thurgood. Somehow the children learn that they have only two days to obtain a particular scepter if they hope to rescue their teacher. Failure to do so will result in Thurgood's soul taking up permanent residence in the amulet. This sets the scene for a series of activities, including a walk to a lighthouse, a flight from a bad spirit, evasion of a bully named Kurt (who also has magical powers), and a discussion about the definition of "runes." Mandy is the expert on ancient Viking writings, and her understanding directs the kids from one task to the next, however illogically. In the end, the kids are warned they will have to sacrifice their powers to free Thurgood, and they agree to the terms. They are further warned that freeing Thurgood means they will never see him again. Neither warning turns out to be true. 

Is it any good?

This movie is a waste of your time. It's a movie the same way the Yellow Pages is a book. Put another way, the credits say that Mark McNabb is a director, on the presumed assumption that directors oversee and guide audio and visual recordings of people uttering dialogue from a script. However, at a certain point, a line must be drawn in the sand representing a bare minimal standard of quality, and McNabb, his writers, actors, and camera people have failed to meet that standard. By a lot. Don't waste your time on this dreadful adventure. There are so many better choices for kids out there.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many ways in which the plot lacks drama, suspense, and narrative movement. Can you think of examples of where the movie doesn't make sense?

  • What makes an actor good? Do you think dull performances have more to do with actor talent or inadequate and unexciting writing?

  • This movie seems to take inspiration from the Harry Potter series. How does this compare to other movies about adventurous children? What works here? What doesn't work?

Movie details

For kids who love adventure and fantasy

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