The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Charlie St. Cloud

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Charlie St. Cloud

Even his name sounds heavenly, or at least like a really soft brand of toilet tissue. The titular character does have an unusual ability that sets him apart from all of his peers, but it takes a tragedy to discover it.

Charlie (Zack Efron) a recent high school graduate and his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) do everything together, especially sail boats and play ball.

When their mother (Kim Bassinger) leaves the boys to go to work one night, an unplanned car ride turns tragic with Charlie at the wheel. Sam is killed on impact, but Charlie survives thanks to a dedicated paramedic named Florio (Ray Liotta) whose faith in St. Jude (patron saint of hopeless causes) helps him revive the flatlined teen.

Charlie’s promising future shifts to accommodate a lingering guilt, mitigated somewhat by the startling discovery that Sam appears at sunset each day to play ball in a secret clearing adjacent to the graveyard. Seems Charlie has the “gift” of seeing and communing with the dead. He defers a sailing scholarship to Stanford so that he can stay in his small town, work at the cemetery and meet Sam each evening.

Years pass. Charlie’s routine never varies, battling territorial geese by day and playing ball with Sam at night. Meanwhile, his graduating class attends college and many start lucrative careers. The townspeople view Charlie as odd, reclusive, and mysterious.

Former classmate Tess (Amanda Crew) reconnects with Charlie just before she embarks on an ambitious solo endeavor to sail around the world. The interaction and subsequent attraction shakes Charlie from his stagnant complacency, but raises conflicts in him about his odd, lingering relationship with his brother and the life choices he’s made because of it.

Events change even further with a visit from Florio who imparts wise words about finding a purpose in life. Florio possesses a cherished St. Jude medal that becomes a sacred talisman for Charlie as he sorts out the direction his life will take.

As Tess becomes more important in Charlie’s life, Sam feels himself fading from it. Charlie must choose the path that makes the most sense to him, with painful consequences in either direction.

Zac Efron proves he can act convincingly, even managing to tone down his androgynous blue-eyed gaze enough to let the angst come through undiluted by pretty-boy conceits. Charlie Tahan’s Sam is natural and believable; his character jerked the tears out of the audience when the sentimental strings on the cinematic violin got plucked (and you knew they would).

Amanda Crew’s Tess walks through her part adequately enough, but is devoid of any type of heat. Ray Liotta’s Florio is used as a mere plot device, disseminating information that makes everything fall neatly into place. Kin Bassinger is not given enough face time to comment upon, but her brief appearance lets us know she’s still around and perhaps ready for more substantial work.

Director Burr Steers (17 Again) uses the turbulent coastal scenery effectively; cinematography on land and sea captures a sweeping, sometimes ethereal, sometimes dangerous beauty. But many characters aside from Charlie and Sam are underdeveloped, making it difficult for the viewer to make an emotional investment outside of the two.

While the brothers’ relationship is a close one that many will relate to and champion, the same can’t be said for the sudden match-strike that is Charlie and Tess. The attraction appears out of nowhere and develops too quickly to be taken as anything but a convenient means to get Charlie back onto the water, not to mention a jump-start back into the living world.

(Like they were going to let Zac Efron get away with NOT having a love interest).

Though it stops just short of sap and is a pleasant enough ride, there’s little to care about; the sudden, required romance feels too forced to inspire heroics, and even the boy with the angelic eyes and celestial name can’t make it so.

Only so-so.

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