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Charlie St Cloud - Review

Charlie St Cloud

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

ZAC Efron gets the chance to further display a dramatic range beyond his High School Musical persona in Charlie St Cloud but is let down by the soppy nature of the material.

Based on the novel by Ben Sherwood and directed by Burr Steers, the film is an overly sentimental, overly religious offering that tackles a potentially tricky subject matter in appallingly schmaltzy fashion.

Efron plays Charlie St. Cloud, a young sailing enthusiast with a bright future. All this is shattered, however, just before leaving for college, when Charlie loses his brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) in a horrific car accident – an event he almost perishes in too.

Overcome by grief, Charlie’s perception of life and death become blurred as he keeps his last promise to Sam – to practice baseball with him every day at sunset – while maintaning a job at the local cemetery.

But following a chance meeting with another talented sailor, Tess (Amanda Crew), Charlie starts to open his eyes to the life he could be living and remaining true to his promise.

When events take another dramatic turn, this decision becomes even more pertinent, as do the potential reasons he was put back on Earth following his accident.

From its very first moments, it’s clear that Charlie St Cloud is going to be an overly manipulative experience that tugs desperately hard at the heart-strings.

Yet while there are poignant moments, the film is over-burdened by its reliance on religion and God’s grand plan as a plot device… seldom allowing Efron to tap into the anger and confusion inherent with his predicament.

As a result, Efron struggles to create a credible character, while neither of his two central relationships really grip. He did much better work, ironically, in 17 Again.

Steers’ direction is also more than a little pedestrian and sometimes just plain lazy, with plot twists that could have been well buried (and therefore effective) becoming apparent all too easily.

The overdone race-against-time finale is also contrived and unlikely… stretching the miracle theme to breaking point and beyond.

High profile support from the likes of Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta is also too fleeting (and therefore a waste) given Steers’ insistence on making this a star vehicle for his leading man.

Hence, far from being a real showcase for Efron’s dramatic potential, Charlie St Cloud is a sentimental slice of Hollywood feel-good drama that sails far too easily from memory.

Certificate: 12
Running time: 99mins
UK DVD and Blu-ray Release: February 7, 2011