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Genre: Drama/Romance
Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Zac Efron, Amanda Crew, Donal Logue, Charlie Tahan, with Kim Basinger, Ray Liotta
RunTime: 1 hr 39 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Official Website: http://www.charliestcloud.com/

Opening Day: 30 September 2010


Based on an acclaimed novel, Charlie St. Cloud is a romantic drama starring Zac Efron as a young man who survives an accident that lets him see the world in a unique way.  In this emotionally charged story, he begins a romantic journey in which he embraces the dark realities of the past while discovering the transformative power of love.

Accomplished sailor Charlie St. Cloud (Efron) has the adoration of mother Claire (Oscar® winner Kim Basinger) and little brother Sam (newcomer Charlie Tahan), as well as a college scholarship that will lead him far from his sleepy Pacific Northwest hometown.  But his bright future is cut short when a tragedy strikes and takes his dreams with it. 

After his high-school classmate Tess (Amanda Crew) returns home unexpectedly, Charlie grows torn between honoring a promise he made four years earlier and moving forward with newfound love.  And as he finds the courage to let go of the past for good, Charlie discovers the soul most worth saving is his own.

Movie Review:

It seems de rigueur for Hollywood teen heartthrobs to put in a dramatic performance in a melodrama as a transition into serious actor territory. Such a role should preferably come in the form of a troubled adolescent usually in his/her late teens and provide plenty of screen time for said actor/actress to act sullen and preferably shed tears. That was the case with Miley Cyrus in “The Last Song”, and “Charlie St Cloud” marks High School Musical star Zac Efron’s turn- though admittedly Zac Efron’s attempt here is way more successful than Miley’s.

One might be mistaken for thinking that “Charlie St Cloud”- like “The Last Song”- is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Indeed, all the hallmarks of a typical Sparks melodrama are there- two brothers, bad car wreck, one dies, the other left guilt-ridden who eventually takes a job as a caretaker at the cemetery where said brother is buried- but what differentiates this New Age fable (written by former Good Morning America executive producer Ben Sherwood) from a Sparks novel are its supernatural elements.

Despite the demise of his brother, Zac Efron’s Charlie actually gets to see his brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) every day at sunset for baseball practice. For four years, Charlie has faithfully kept their appointment, but that promise is threatened when Charlie meets a former high-school classmate Tess (Amanda Crew) and finds himself drawn to her. Tess’ entry into his life is his chance of letting go of the past, though that choice is not an easy one to make. It is also not an easy one to sit through, for Zac’s “17 Again” director Burr Steers and screenwriters Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick handle the subsequent emotional tug-of-war with little subtlety.

So in pure melodramatic workmanlike fashion, Charlie will miss one of his sunset appointments with Sam, leaving Sam distraught and Charlie torn up. At this, you expect Charlie to hit the bottle and smash some things up while in his stupor. Guess what? Charlie does both. Even more excruciating than its predictability are the many blatant self-help lines in the script- “You’re hurt because you’re alive”; “at some point, we all have to let go”- which do little but make you cringe in your seat. Sure, this may be a lesson about grief, but one doesn’t need to be reminded in such prominent fashion time and time again.

More discerning viewers will also be frustrated over the ambiguities in the film. Apparently besides Sam, Charlie has also acquired an ability to see dead people- one of whom is the ghost of a high school friend killed in Iraq whose gravestone Charlie tends to in the cemetery. What then are we suppose to make of Sam? Is he a ghost? Or is he just a figment of Charlie’s guilt? If he is the former, does he linger because Charlie refuses to let him go or because Sam himself refuses to let go? If he is the latter, then could the rest of the people be figments of Charlie’s imagination too?

The film attempts to whitewash these questions, and would have gotten away with it were it not relying on this very logic for its supposed twist ending. Without giving anything away, it has something to do with why Charlie (and not Sam) survived the car accident- his religious paramedic (Ray Liotta) also tells him as much. Yes, there’s some lightweight spirituality thrown in for good measure- especially telling in its tendency for high aerial shots- but this is just as inconsequential as the maudlin story.

And that is exactly what “Charlie St Cloud” is- a glorified teen weepie thanks to lead star Zac Efron. He makes the best out of what the needlessly sentimental film lets him be, but Steers’ mawkish tendencies for the film finally get the better of what could have been a refreshing change from the singing and dancing Zac usually gets up to. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably already made up your mind to see this- and you should, for Zac Efron’s performance alone. If you’re not, then avoid this altogether and wait for the next Nicholas Sparks film.

Movie Rating:

(Zac Efron redeems his breakthrough performance into serious actor territory, but that’s not enough to save this sentimental fantasy from mawkish melodrama)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. The Lovely Bones (2009)

. 17 Again (2009)

. Bright Star (2009)

. Atonement (2007)

. Zodiac (2007)

. The Dead Girl (2006)

. The Constant Gardener (2005)

. Stir of Echoes 2: The Homecoming DVD (2007)

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