The Runner Stumbles (1979)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Docudrama, Melodrama  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

Those who feel that the films of Stanley Kramer are more interested in getting a message across than in obeying the niceties of cinematic drama will not have their minds changed by The Runner Stumbles, a late Kramer work that lays things on a bit heavily. An interesting choice, however, has been made in the manner in which the screenplay has been shaped, jumbling the sequence of events from its traditional three-act structure into a succession of flashbacks that manage to keep the viewer guessing. Ultimately, though, the gimmick wears thin and the staginess of the original material still seeps through; combined with the ponderousness of the material, this helps to keep the film from ever becoming the intellectual yet moving drama it wants to be. The blame certainly doesn't rest with the cast, as Dick Van Dyke, Kathleen Quinlan, and (especially) Maureen Stapleton all contribute finely honed portraits that manage to rise above the stereotypes that threaten to drag their characters down. This Runner definitely stumbles, but the cast keeps it from falling.