The Death And Life Of Charlie St. Cloud

Director    Burr Steers
Starring    Zac Efron, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger, Amanda Crew, Charlie Tahan
Release    30 JUL (US) 8 OCT (UK)    Certificate 12A
3 stars


10th October 2010

In order to enjoy the fantasy-friendly Charlie St. Cloud, you need to have either a soft spot for spiritually romantic movies, be open minded about the afterlife, be a twelve year-old girl obsessed with Zac Efron, or be easily impressed by stunning landscapes and peaceful coastal towns. Unfortunately, I'm a sucker for a striking seaside backdrop - and films that kinda reminds me of Field Of Dreams.

After a horrific car accident kills his younger brother Sam (Burning Bright's Charlie Tahan), the grief-stricken Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) puts his life on hold. He turns his back on a promising sailing scholarship from Stanford in favour of working as the cemetery groundskeeper where his brother is buried, just to keep his promise: to always meet Sam, or at least his ghost, in the woods at sunset to chat and play catch.

After he meets a girl, Charlie must decide whether to finally let go of his brother and start living and enjoying his life again. Ray Liotta's wise, religious paramedic is on hand to give him a helpful nudge in the right direction.

Based on the 2004 book of the same name, Burr Steers' second collaboration with Zac Efron (after 17 Again) is sentimental fantasy hokum of the highest order, aimed directly at the Disney market. Think of it as Ghost for the High School Musical generation.

[gallery]There's nothing Disney about Zefron's performance, however. Playing an inspirational fatherly figure to his younger brother, there's a growing maturity in his performance. Who'd have thought the all singin', all dancin' Efron would be able to convince as a broken down, doe-eyed mysterious recluse?

He reportedly turned down the starring role in the Footloose remake to appear in this - a bold move, showing he wants to put the musicals behind him. Dare I say that, despite a distant, glazed-over look about him, this is a career best. When your career's made up of High School Musicals and age-reversal comedies, it's not a difficult feat to pull off, but nevertheless, a couple more films down the line and Zefron will have ridden himself of those musical numbers.

The veterans - Kim Basinger as Charlie's hard-working single mother and Ray Liotta as the spiritual paramedic who saved Charlie's life, have all too brief, but meaningful roles, leaving the screen free for the youngsters to shine. Their presence does add some elegance to the proceedings. Liotta goes the extra mile and becomes the film's voice of reason, telling Charlie that he didn't save his life for him to waste it playing catch with his dead brother, but with more grace, obviously.

Charlie St. Cloud is a poignant teen melodrama about learning to accept death, let go of your loved ones and embrace the future. Think any more into it and you'll confuse yourself with the gaping plot holes and unanswered questions. But that won't bother the teenage girl audience it's aimed squarely at, who'll be too busy having their heartstrings tugged by the tears rolling down Zefron's cheek.

The dialogue's a little clunky and cheesy at times but the overall plot is an interesting one. It's an over-romantic fantasy that'll cause tearful eyes for some, and rolling, or even closed eyes for others. And I'll say again; I was most impressed with the impossibly beautiful coastal location, and this review score has absolutely nothing to do with Zefron taking his shirt off.

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