Charlie St. Cloud

6 Aug

Title: Charlie St. Cloud
Year: 2010
Director: Burr Steers
Writers: Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick, based on the novel by Ben Sherwood
Starring: Zac Efron, Kim Basinger, Ray Liotta, Amanda Crew, Charlie Tahan
MPAA Rating: PG-13, language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sexuality
Runtime: 99 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 4.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 26%

Even though I didn’t enjoy Charlie St. Cloud at all, I didn’t enjoy it for reasons different than the ones I thought were going to be the ones causing the disliking. You see, I went into this film thinking Zac Efron was going to be rather sucky and make this film bad, but instead, Zac Efron’s performance is actually one of the few good things one can say about Charlie St. Cloud, it’s not a fantastic performance, but it’s a very decent one, everything else, however, is just a really shallow and sappy, and I doubt people that aren’t Zac Efron fans will like this one much.

Seriously though, Zac Efron is quite okay in this one, I’m far from being a fan of his, mostly because I hated that whole High School Musical franchise, but if you look at his non-HSM stuff you will find Hairspray, in which he was okay, Me and Orson Welles, in which he was pretty damn good, last year’s 17 Again, which I actually enjoyed a fair bit, and now this one. All of which points to the fact that this guy can be a pretty decent actor, and my guess is that if he ever gets a role that seriously suits him he’ll surprise everyone and give an awesome performance, and those are words I seriously never thought I’d say about him.

But that fact of the matter is that, as nice as Mr. Efron’s performance may be it’s not nearly enough to salvage Charlie St. Cloud, this is still a film that felt like a Hallmark movie to me, a photography that’s pretty in the annoying way, a list of songs that add to the sentimental nonsense this film tries to achieve. And don’t get me wrong, I like the sentimental films, however, the sentimental films that really work, I’m thinking stuff like The Notebook or Life as a House, are the ones that don’t rely on you to think too much but rather to let yourself fall into the story and go with it, without thinking it over too much, Charlie St. Cloud to me felt as one journey I couldn’t let myself get lost in, and as such I ended up not really loving this one at all.

Burr Steers, the director in this one, is a man who has directed only two other feature length films prior to this one, one was the aforementioned 17 Again which was the first time he collaborated with Mr. Efron, and the first one, back in 2002, was Igby Goes Down, and that was a film I thought was pretty much perfect. By this I mean that Mr. Steers is a guy who had done a pretty entertaining film last year, and an extraordinary one eight years ago, so one would think he’d know how to tackle this one, too bad that wasn’t the case.

This is a horribly melodramatic film, and has a huge supernatural element in it that could have played well had it been tackled differently by the film, the thing here is that Charlie, Zac Efron’s character, can see, and hangs out with, the ghost of his dead younger brother, who died in a car accident that will change the life of Charlie forever. Firstly, Charlie was supposed to go to Stanford on a scholarship, but instead, as the movie fast forwards five years, we see Charlie is still there, working at the local cemetery. And when the sun starts going down he goes and play catch with the ghost of his brother who is now just one of the many dead people he can see and interacts with.

Then there’s this girl who comes to the town and she and Charlie fall in love, but she has to leave to go sailing around the world and Charlie, even though that scholarship he had gotten was for sailing, had vowed never to abandon the ghost of his younger brother. It may sound all good and nice, however it’s really not, it feels too forced and, as I said before, the cinematography is pretty in the most clichéd way, and that further takes away from it. You may notice that this film, on its surface at least, resembles a potential plot for a Nicholas Sparks novel, and if that had been the road this one had taken maybe it would have worked. But then again maybe it would have turned out like The Last Song, and we’re actually better off with this one.

I wouldn’t necessarily tell you to avoid seeing Charlie St. Cloud at all costs, it does have in Mr. Efron a guy who you know will someday blossom into a talented guy when and if he finds the right breakthrough role and it also has, in Ms. Crew, a capable enough girl for him to interact in the romantic parts of this, unfortunately the plot and how Mr. Steers and his screenwriters chose to tackle this one was all wrong, and the end result is a mediocre film that wasted the potential to be a decent enough little film and that few people that aren’t Zac Efron fans will find themselves enjoying.

Grade: C-

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