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August 02, 2010

Review: Charlie St. Cloud


(Most posts this week are coming to you from my iPad, and I'm still getting used to the spell correct, so please let me know if you notice any typos.)

Honestly, I would never have guessed I'd make a point of going to see a Zac Efron movie on opening night. I hadn't even really planned on going to this one. But a few entertainment writers I follow on Twitter were extremely excited about it, and it was a Friday night at the beginning of my vacation, so I figured hey, why not? And truthfully? I pretty much loved it.

I don't want to spoil anyone, because the plot was more surprising than I'd anticipated. So if you click through to read the rest of this review, you will, I hope, be spoiled on nothing that the previews didn't already make obvious. If you don't want even that level of detail, here's the really short version: it was good! Better than I'd expected! And Zac Efron is pretty! And can actually act!

Okay, the slightly longer version! First: the plot. There were flaws. And some gaping holes. I will not try to get around that. I don't want to go into too much detail, so let's just say that I was more or less able to turn off my brain and just go with it while I was watching, but when I started thinking about it afterward, things didn't quite add up. Here's a non-spoilery example: As you see in the trailers, the main character, Charlie, plays catch with his dead brother Sam. But how does this WORK? He seems to be using a real, not ghostly, baseball, so how does it get thrown back to him? Therre are a bunch of logistical issues like that, and a few of them do get in the way of the plot.

I'm not sure I'd seen Efron in anything since High School Musical, and I'm pleased to report that he's grown up quite nicely, both in that he's now a good-looking adult, and can also actually act! I was pretty neutral about him before this, but I was impressed enough by this role that I will now make a point of following his career. Some critics have complained about the movie pandering to its audience by featuring Charlie wet and/or shirtless more often than may be strictly necessary, but I choose to see this as a feature rather than a flaw.

The rest of the cast was solid as well. The young actor who plays Sam does a good job of keeping the character appealing and realistic, if a bit precocious. (I am often annoyed by precocious kids in movies, but I was not here.) the female lead is believable as both a sailor and a romantic object, and Charlie's slightly frantic British friend/coworker provides some nice comic relief.

One more nit I have to pick: I spent most of the movie assuming they were somewhere on the coast of Massachusetts, and that seems to be the case, although their version of Quincy bears little resemblence to the parts of the actual Quincy, MA I've seen. But one character questions another's obsession with "the team from Boston" - the Red Sox - and that made so little sense that I started questioning whether I'd completely misunderstood the setting. If you want to make a Boston-area kid's baseball loyalties seem noteworthy or odd, make him interested in some other team. No one would even bother commenting on an 11-year-old MA boy collecting Red Sox cards.

A few people have asked if the movie made me cry. It did not, but then, I rarely cry at movies - the last time I remember crying in the theater was at Serenity. But this one did make me choke up a bit, so if you are the sort to cry at movies, you will probably cry at this one. Even when the plot fell apart logistically, it held together emotionally, and it was a genuinely affecting story without becoming a generic tear-jerker. The sincerity of the story and themes overcame the sometimes clumsy writing, and really, if all else fails, Zac Efron alternately sailing and emoting makes for a thoroughly enjoyable movie-going experience.

Posted by Kat at August 2, 2010 12:00 PM
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