By Cary Darling
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Vanessa Hudgens is running away from her G-rated, “High School Musical” past so quickly she might have Usain Bolt asking “What’s the hurry?”
But the problem with speed is that you always don’t look where you’re going.
That’s how, if you’re Hudgens, you’ll ended up in steampunk dreck like Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” and Harmony Korine’s deliriously enjoyable girls-gone-bad shindig, “Spring Breakers.”
Now she lands in “Gimme Shelter,” where she still gets to play a wild child, this time a tattooed and pierced pregnant 16-year-old runaway with a violent prostitute mom, but it’s in the context of a more family-friendly, afterschool special-style cautionary tale.
As a vehicle for the young actress, “Gimme Shelter” works; she is by far the best thing about it.
Based loosely on the work of Kathy Difiore, a New Jersey woman who opened her door to homeless pregnant teens and founded the Several Sources Shelter, the film offers little deviation from where a movie like this might be expected to go.
Agnes, aka Apple (Hudgens), is a sullen, angry teenager who escapes from her psychotic mother (Rosario Dawson) and finds herself on the streets in search of her birth father (Brendan Fraser).
He’s a successful Wall Street exec with a huge house, a couple of well-scrubbed kids, and a pinched, uptight wife (Stephanie Szostak) who’s not in the mood to be stepmother to a child from her husband’s past, especially one who is soon to be a mom herself.
Apple is taken to a clinic to deal with her situation, though the word “abortion” is never uttered, but she has second thoughts about the procedure and runs away again.
This time, she ends up crossing paths with a priest (James Earl Jones) and then Difiore (Ann Dowd, who was so wonderful in the 2012 film “Compliance”).