Justine Jacob and Alex D. da Silva’s “Runners High” follows four kids from the mean streets of Oakland, Calif., as they prep for the 26.2-mile Los Angeles Marathon. Since “Hoop Dreams,” such edgy-but-inspirational docus about inner-city youth finding inner strength through athletics have been ubiquitous, and this one isn’t edgy or inspirational enough to stand out. Nonetheless, the story has built-in appeal for educational TV and classroom exposure.
Volunteer org SRO (Students Run Oakland) trains teens for the L.A. event, providing a structure that can pay dividends in other arenas (like academics). Lure of the trip itself is motivation enough for some kids, like attitude-impaired Ebony. Fred is a natural runner whose unstable home life has made him rebellious. But the pic misses chances for real dramatic involvement by digging deeper into these two African-American students’ off-track lives. Still, they get much more attention than Latinos Marvin or Alma; latter’s posse of identically clad best-friend running mates rep another potential human-interest goldmine filmmakers barely take notice of. Nor is the climactic marathon handled with much suspense or flair. Still, personalities (including tough-loving coaches) are agreeable, pic’s message upbeat if uninspired.