Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr An inspiration to generations of aspiring female rockers, her career mirroring a time of volatile cultural shifts, Joan Jett is a great subject for a music documentary. Unfortunately, in much the way that punk became commodified into something little more than a cynical marketing ploy, Bad Reputation takes this black-leather-clad symbol of rebellion and reduces her to a kind of pop-up book, hitting salient marks without ever really digging deep. The movie begins with that most rock ’n’ roll of images: a child dreaming of getting a guitar for Christmas. This sets up Jett’s central conflict: her fight against the idea that “girls can’t play rock ‘n’ roll.” Bad Reputation quickly jumps from this statement of purpose to Los Angeles circa 1975, an era of sex and drugs ushered in with the thrilling riff of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” (a ‘90s-era interview with Bowie is thrown in not to shed any light on Jett but to remark that all he remembers about LA at that time was the sex). Born Joan Marie Larkin, Jett wanted to play guitar from an early age but didn’t want to be another Joni Mitchell, which seemed to be the accepted musical model for young women at the time. After moving to Los Angeles as a teen and hanging out at Rodney Bingenheimer’s glam-heavy club, she fell in with Kim Fowley, who would manage the Runaways. Before the movie is even five minutes old, it already feels superficial. Bingenheimer likens Jett and Bowie as “time travelers, because they’re into all this music before it happens.” But that overstates Jett’s trajectory; under Fowley, the Runaways were capitalizing on a trend, and in her consistent solo work, Jett was a reliable hard rocker who even fans would admit didn’t exactly break any new musical ground. Though Iggy Pop is there as his usual colorful self, almost impossible to reduce to a talking head, there’s no mention of the Stooges and other Detroit bands who set the musical stage for the world Jett was breaking into. The documentary seems to exploit Jett for her symbolic power, which is ironic, since Fowley clearly exploited his young jail-bait charges, and in ways that the filmmakers barely touch upon. With its final minutes devoted to Jett’s work as an activist and her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the movie may as well have been called Good Reputation—but who really wants to see that? Accepting the award in 2015, Jett fronts the surviving members of Nirvana and transforms the stirring iconoclasm of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into something antithetical to rock ‘n’ roll: sentimentality. Director Kevin Kerslake cut his teeth on music videos for such bands as Nirvana and the Rolling Stones. So he’s an apt choice to document the career of the ur-riot grrrl. But despite its rebellious title, Bad Reputation is a fairly by-the-numbers music documentary, its flavor of energy with little insight a typical recipe for the MTV era.