Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Movie Review: Charlie St. Cloud

Charlie St. Cloud **
Directed By:
Burr Steers.
Written By: Craig Pearce & Lewis Colick based on the novel by Ben Sherwood.
Starring: Zac Efron (Charlie St. Cloud), Charlie Tahan (Sam St. Cloud), Amanda Crew (Tess Carroll), Augustus Prew (Alistair Wooley), Donal Logue (Tink Weatherbee), Kim Basinger (Claire St. Cloud), Ray Liotta (Florio Ferrente), Dave Franco (Sully), Matt Ward (Connors).

Zac Efron has a natural likability when he’s onscreen that cannot be taught – you either have it or you don’t. And unlike so much of young Hollywood, he seems to have his head on his shoulders, and is willing to do different types of roles. He easily could have spent the next few years doing bad teen romantic comedies and musicals, but he seems to really want to build his resume with different types of roles, by quality directors – see his work in Me and Orson Welles for Richard Linklater as an example. The fact that his new movie, Charlie St. Cloud, doesn’t really work really isn’t Efron’s fault – in fact he deserves credit for making what should have been a nearly unwatchably cheesy movie bearable. Efron is headed for more major movie stardom I think, but Charlie St. Cloud won’t do him many favors.

Efron plays the title character in this movie about a high school kid who seems to have everything going for him. He is getting good grades, and is so good at sailing that he has gotten a scholarship to Stanford (I didn’t even know they gave out sailing scholarships). It is the summer between high school and university, and he is just killing time before his life starts. And that’s when everything goes wrong. He wants to go to a party, but needs to drop his little brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan) at his friend’s place first, and on the way they get into an accident. Charlie is miraculously saved, but Sam isn’t. Charlie defers his scholarship, and we come back to him five years later. He never left his small town, and now works at the local cemetery. His only commitment is to meet Sam every night at sunset to practice Sam’s pitching. Yes Sam is dead, but Charlie made him a promise before he died, and he intends to keep it. Every night he talks to Sam as life passes him by.

This is when Charlie meets Tess (Amanda Crew) – or I should say re-meets her. They went to high school together, but didn’t really know each other. Now she is preparing to do an around the world, solo sailing race and is back in town to test out her boat. They two laugh and flirt and get a little more serious. But, of course, there is always Sam which could get in Charlie’s way.

There have been a lot of these somewhat tragic romance movies this year aimed at teenagers. There was Dear John with Channing Tatum as a soldier who falls for Amanda Seyfried, The Last Song with an unhappy Miley Cyrus falling for a rich kid and Remember Me, with Robert Pattinson falling for Emile de Ravin. None of them were very good – and neither is Charlie St. Cloud. At least it’s much better than Remember Me, with its sucker punch ending that it did not earn, and its horrible Robert Pattinson performance. In fact, Efron’s charm may make this one the best of the lot – although with this sort of competition, that’s not something to be very proud of.

To me, the movie never really takes off because the story is just so cheesy that you can never really take it seriously. The movie tries so hard to get you to like it, that I had a natural resistance to it – it never really won me over, in part, because I don’t think the movie ever really plays fair – and tries too hard to pull the wool over your eyes. Efron keeps it going, and it should be said that both Charlie Tahan and Amanda Crew, two actors I don’t recall ever seeing before, are likable enough in their roles that they don’t grate on your nerves. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of casting talented actors like Kim Basinger, Ray Liotta and Donal Logue was, considering that the movie never really lets them do anything (and Liotta was a distraction, because he has the same impossibly blue eyes as Efron, making me wonder if it was going to turn out that he was Efron’s long lost father).

The movie was directed by Burr Steers, whose career started off well enough with the very funny, indie teen film Igby Goes Down. Steers apparently wanted money, so he has followed that up with last year’s 17 Again (also starring Efron) and now this. You can’t blame him too much, but it is always a little disappointing when a promising filmmaker goes that route – because it sometimes impossible to get them back (remember Boaz Yakin?),

Charlie St. Cloud is not an awful movie by any means, but watching it, I wondered what the point of it all was. The film never really finds it footing.

No comments:

Post a Comment