DVD review: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream
By Joel Selvin
The San Francisco Chronicle - December 9, 2007
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS: RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM | 2007 | NOT RATED | WARNER BROS. | $29.99 (FOUR DISCS)
Although four hours seems like a long time for a documentary on Tom Petty, left, and the Heartbreakers, "Runnin' Down a Dream" doesn't seem the slightest bit fat or indulgent, and it's loaded with an astonishing amount of great music - enough to surprise even longtime fans. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, who began his career with a highly regarded documentary about director John Ford, the film benefits immensely from extensive home-movie archives that capture the band's earliest days in intimate detail. All the principals talk - Petty comes off as a decent, no-bull guy as amazed by his success as any of us are - but it is the performance footage that lights up the screen. They treat potentially delicate issues, such as the firing of longtime drummer Stan Lynch and the heroin overdose death of bassist Howie Epstein, without flinching. Perhaps because he is a down-to-earth guy, Petty may have been underrated over the years, but the sheer quantity of good music packed into the two-disc film is staggering - from the beginnings as a band called Mudcrutch to the 2006 30th anniversary concert at Gainesville, Fla., which is included in its entirety on a third disc (a fourth disc contains an audio CD of previously unreleased nuggets from the documentary's soundtrack). "Runnin' Down a Dream" rocks so hard, the four spellbinding hours just fly by. Don't miss this.