Movie Review: Charlie St. Cloud – Frankly My Dear – Orlando Sentinel
There’s an unfussy confidence to Zac Efron’s acting, a physical ease on camera that doesn’t require mannerisms or tricks. He is slipping the bounds of high school musicals and dramas right before our eyes, and his screen presence is already more adult-masculine than Leonardo DiCaprio’s was at this age.
And if directors choose to shoot him in close-up, well, he can’t help if it he’s pretty.
Charlie St. Cloud ably packages Efron in a teen weeper, a transitional romance that takes the High School Musical star into his 20s, with adult concerns and emotional issues and a romance that accepts adult consequences. But it’s also a gimmicky glop of sentimental, Ghost meets The Sixth Sense. Charlie St. Cloud looses his kid brother, but finds love. If only he could stop playing catch with that kid brother every evening as the sun goes down.
We meet Charlie at his peek — King of the Quincy, Washington small-boat sailors, headed to Stanford on a sailing scholarship. Yeah, Mom (Kim Basinger, under-used) has to work two jobs to keep them going, but Charlie and his somewhat spoiled kid brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) are lucky kids with bright futures.
Then, graduation night — “Kegger at the Point tonight!” — an accident, and Sam is gone. Charlie almost died too, but a devout Catholic paramedic (Ray Liotta) willed him back to life. The only problem? Charlie still sees Sam. And he’s promised the now-dead brother that he’d meet him “at evening cannons” (guns fired at the yacht club at sunset) to play catch and talk Red Sox baseball.
Cut to five years later, everybody else has moved on. But Charlie couldn’t go to college. He works and lives at the cemetery (ewwww), hangs with the morbid wacky Brit gravedigger Alistair (Augustus Prew) and can only gaze in envy as his former sailing rival (Amanda Crew) preps for to be the youngest competitor in an “Around Alone” round-the-world sailboat race.
Tess is interested, but she’s about to hit the high seas. Charlie is interested, but he can’t leave Quincy. Won’t somebody give these lovebirds a break?
Efron, re-teaming with his 17 Again director Burr Steers, plays a nice range of cocky to emotionally crippled here. Crew (The Haunting in Connecticut, Sex Drive) isn’t as subtle as he is, but makes a beguiling enough presence and a moderately credible sailor. The way the two brothers’ relationship stays frozen in time feels right, and there’s plenty of heart here.
But the movie’s central gimmick isn’t enough, and when more supernatural twists that don’t play by the movie’s own fantasy rules kick in, it lost me.
With Charlie St. Cloud, Efron sends the message that he’s more than another pretty face, that he’s got the chops to stick in this business. But if he’s decided these sappy Nicholas Sparks-ish tragic romances are his bread and butter, “taken seriously” status may elude him, and only come grudgingly in the end.
See for Yourself
Charlie St. Cloud
Cast: Zac Efron, Amanda Crew, Charlie Tahan, Kim Basinger, Ray Liotta
Director: Burr Steers
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Industry rating: PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality.
2 out of 4 stars