Monday, April 5, 2010

Movie Review: The Last Song

The Last Song **
Directed by:
Julie Anne Robinson
Written By: Jeff Van Wie & Nicholas Sparks based on the book by Sparks.
Starring: Miley Cyrus (Ronnie Miller), Liam Hemsworth (Will Blakelee), Greg Kinnear (Steve Miller), Bobby Coleman (Jonah Miller), Hallock Beals (Scott), Kelly Preston (Kim), Nick Lashaway (Marcus), Carly Chaikin (Blaze), Kate Vernon (Susan Blakelee), Melissa Ordway (Ashley), Nick Searcy (Tom Blakelee).

Miley Cyrus has become a huge star on her TV show Hannah Montana. Aimed at tween girls, the show, the movie and the albums have made her a millionaire at the tender age of 17. But I wonder how much fun it can be for Cyrus having to maintain a completely goody goody profile all the time. Hell, just last year she got in trouble for an apparently racy picture in Vanity Fair. She is a 17 year old girl, who has to act like the perfect role model for little girls everywhere. It’s got to get annoying. The Last Song is Cyrus’s first real role outside of Hannah Montana. It is a slightly more adult role for her – dealing with some issues that teenagers today have to face, but nothing too mature or adult. In short, the youngest members of her audience will be bored by the movie – but the older ones will probably like it quite a bit.

In the film, Cyrus stars as Ronnie, a troubled teenager from a broken home sent with her brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) to spend the summer with her father Steve (Greg Kinnear) in Georgia instead of living with her mother (Kelly Preston) in New York. Ronnie has never gotten over the divorce, and hates her father for abandoning them. She is a wonderful pianist – she has even been accepted to Julliard – but says she is not going there or anywhere else now that high school is over. She doesn’t want to be with her father, but has little choice.

Since the film is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks (A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Dear John, Nights in Rodanthe) we know two things heading into the movie. 1) There will be a love story and 2) someone is going to die. This movie provides both of them. For the love story, Ronnie meets Will (Liam Hemsworth) a buff hunk who at first appears to be just another rich, spoiled jerk, but who surprises Ronnie with his sensitivity. The two fall in love quickly, although of course, his parents do not approve. She isn’t in their class, and her father is suspected of burning down the church. She simply is not good enough for Will. As for the second thing, I’ll leave that to you to discover if and when you watch the movie.

Cyrus isn’t the best actress in the world, but neither is she the worst. She is much better at playing the lighter scenes in this film – the ones where she is falling in love with Hemsworth – than she is at the heavy, dramatic stuff that comes near the end of the film. This shouldn’t be too surprising, since she has never really done anything heavy before. She is okay in those scenes, but nothing more. But she is solid enough that she carries the movie. For his part, Hemsworth strikes me as a kind of bland, generic good looking leading man who gets a few good roles than disappears. There nothing in his performance here that suggests that he is a movie star in the making. Kinnear is good as the dad, but the problem is that is all they really give him to do – play the dad.

The Last Song is not really a bad movie, but it certainly is not a good one either. Like the other movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels, it follows its rather predictable formula right down to the finale. Out of the four films based on his novels, only The Notebook is a truly good film – and that’s because the performances by Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner and Gena Rowlands elevated the material to a level that it never should have been at. Since then, the movies have simply sat there on the screen, never truly involving me, but not really boring me either. At least The Last Song didn’t anger me the way Dear John earlier this year did – and that’s because the characters behave in a more realistic way.

At the end of the day, I find that there is not much to say about The Last Song. It will undoubtedly please the fans of Sparks – of which there is a legion – as well as the older fans of Miley Cyrus. But aside from that, is there any real reason to see the movie?

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