Runnin' Down A DreamAfter over 30 years of performing, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have earned themselves 16 Grammy nominations and sold more than 50 million recordings worldwide. It’s no surprise then that their story would make for an interesting documentary. But under the careful eye of director Peter Bogdanovich, much more than just an “interesting documentary” has been created. Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers, is a monumental four-hour exploration of one of the most infamous bands in the industry.

Featuring a massive amount of archival footage and music as well as interviews with Johnny Depp (who appeared in the seven-and-a-half-minute music video for “Into the Great Wide Open”), Eddie Vedder (who idolized Tom Petty and has performed live with the band), Stevie Nicks (who worked extensively with Petty and often remarked that she would “leave Fleetwood Mac to play with the Heartbreakers”), George Harrison (who played with Petty as part of the Traveling Wilburys), Dave Grohl (who played drums with the band on Saturday Night Live) and numerous other friends, musicians and producers (including all the band members and Petty himself), Runnin’ Down a Dream makes good use of its four-hour running time.

Starting with Petty’s humble beginnings in Gainesville, Florida as a music-obsesed grade-schooler, Bogdanovich goes on to examine the formation of Mudcrutch, Petty’s first band, and their rise to fame in Gainesville, which sent them to Los Angeles seeking a record deal. Watching archival family videos and home movies accompanied by Tom Petty’s authoritative drawl immediately gives the film a grounded sense of authority and realism. This is no E! True Hollywood Story special, this is visual historical documentation of a musical legend.

Over the course of the documentary, Petty’s rebel attitude and dedication to his music and his band is revealed, as well as his determination to make it on his own terms. His revolutionary showdown with MCA Records and his refusal to allow the record company to raise the price of his album simply to make profits shows a side of Petty that make it clear why he syas the song “I Won’t Back Down” most captures his true spirit.

Even those who know a good deal about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are sure to find plenty of new information here. From the various members of the band (drummers and bass players) to the Bob Dylan tour to the side projects of Petty himself (Traveling Wilburys and his solo album) there’s more than enough to explore and Bogdanovich makes use of it all. By the time the documentary has ended, it can be assured that anyone who can say with a straight face that Tom Petty isn’t a living legend just wasn’t paying attention.

Sundance Channel aired the world television premiere of the documentary on October 29th after the film premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 14th. 

Zach’s Rating: A
Perfect For: Finding out more about a rock legend
Stay Away if: Four hours is more time than you want to commit to a documentary

For more information on television screening times, visit the Sundance Channel
For more information on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, visit their homepage
To purchase Runnin’ Down a Dream, visit Best Buy

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