Film Review: Odd, Uneven 'Charlie St. Cloud' Misses the Mark
Near the beginning of the new film “Charlie St. Cloud,” the main character and his brother compete in a sailing race. The fast-paced scene could be interesting but instead of focusing on the race from one angle, the camera jumps from one shot to another, distracting the viewer’s attention until the viewer can’t wait until the scene is over. Unfortunately, that disappointing sequence is a harbinger of things to come in a melodramatic and off-putting film about a teenager struggling with the death of his younger brother.
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Zac Efron ("17 Again") plays Charlie, a high school senior with a close-knit relationship with his younger brother Sam, played by Charlie Tahan. Early on, Charlie promises his brother that he will play baseball with him every day until he goes off to college. Shortly thereafter, Charlie is driving a car with Sam as his passenger when another car crashes into their vehicle. Sam is killed in the accident. However, to fulfill his promise to his younger brother, Charlie goes into the woods each day to play catch with his dead brother, who still appears to him.
An astonishing five years goes by and Charlie has spent time with his dead brother each day playing catch. He has avoided going to college and he now spends his time as a groundskeeper of a local cemetery. When a former high school classmate comes back into his life, Charlie has to figure out how to balance a real relationship with her and with the relationship that he has with Sam, a relationship that has kept him anchored to his hometown.
Even though the plot sounds strange, the trailer looked compelling and idealistic -- like it had a strong and relatable story about a teenager not wanting to let go of his brother. However, the movie itself is neither compelling or relatable. This is a melodramatic teenage drama that is both boring and unrealistic.
Once the movie reveals that Charlie had been grieving and playing baseball with his brother for half a decade, things take on a more disturbing quality than expected. Charlie is not only able to see and talk to dead people, he is able to play sports with them. (One wonders what was really happening when Charlie was in the woods by himself playing baseball with his dead brother.) Instead of being charismatic and relatable, Charlie’s character is often just creepy. People in the town find Charlie weird but if they knew what he was really doing, they might be inclined to have him seek help.
The main romance in the film is also unbelievable and forgettable. Five years after his brother’s death, Charlie starts going out with his former classmate. However, the romance falls flat because we don’t really see the connection between these two. They simply come together for the sake of the plot, not because of any real romance between them.
From beginning to end, “Charlie St. Cloud” is full of bizarre plot developments. From the connection that Charlie shares with a paramedic who saved his life to an overtly bizarre twist about the disappearance of Charlie’s love interest on a boating trip, this is a movie that doesn’t seem sure of itself.
Is it a romantic film about a boy falling in love with a girl? Is it a tragic film about a teenager being unable to cope with his brother's death five years after it occurred? Is it a science fiction film about a boy who can see dead people and who has visions of the future?
Whatever “Charlie St. Cloud” is, it is definitely not worth your time.