CHARLIE ST. CLOUD
All the things I disliked about 17 Again seemed to be in play again as Charlie St. Cloud opened. 17 Again seemed assembled in adoration of Zac Efron who was regarded as naturally better than everybody else in the show for no reason other than that he had pretty features and near-perfect hair. Charlie St. Cloud starts the same way though raised an ordinary working class kid, Zac Efrons sport of preference is yachting, which in the real world is usually the exclusive sport of people with seven figure incomes. In the opening yacht race, it is passingly commented of Efron that hes too good, and we learn that he is off to Stanford. The implication seems to be that Zac Efron is so handsome that he enters the game at the very top, a level entirely above any normal human being. Even when it comes to the accident, the most that Zac Efron seemed affected by it is no more than a couple of minor scratches on his pretty face and a bandage that is mostly hidden by his forelock.
However, this turns out to not quite be the case and Charlie St. Cloud succeeds in surprising. About the point that it does its leap five years to the present day, the film starts to work with a moderate conviction. Zac Efron gets a character arc that approximates something that ordinary people can relate to he has given up his promising future to work a nowhere job just to be near his brother. Even though it is never more than a glossified fantasy where every shot seems a perfect landscape or comes with sunset duskily filtered through the trees, Charlie St. Cloud works passably well for what it sets out to be a tearjerker for the teen demographic. You even get the impression that Zac Efron has taken some acting lessons he hits all the emotional beats on cue and there is even a momentous scene where he can be seen ... crying. He inhabits a role with a passable assurance, while crucially the film around him engages more on the level of a story than as something that feels like it has been assembled as a series of pin-up shots. If I was twelve years old and a teenage girl, I am sure I too would be breathless and heartbroken as sensitively tearful Zac races to save the love of his life.
The main drawback of Charlie St. Cloud is the plot [PLOT SPOILERS], which essentially plays like The Sixth Sense (1999) rewritten for the Twilight generation. It may say something about the films cynical expectation of its audience as being dominated by those too young to have seen The Sixth Sense but the storys big surprises are all dependent on someone not having seen that film. Zac Efron essentially plays Haley Joel Osments I see dead people character. The big surprise that we are supposed to get towards the end of the film is that Amanda Crews girlfriend is dead all along (although we later learn that that is not the case). From about the time the film goes from her making the decision to sail into the storm and then we see her mysteriously waking up on top of her fathers grave with a cut on her head, I knew precisely where the story was heading. Once it pulls its big surprise, the film then disappointingly heads to a happy ending. The last quarter turns into something akin to Just Like Heaven (2005) about the ghost of the woman calling to a living man to rescue her before she dies, arriving at a traditional happy ending that allows the two of them to literally sail off into the sunset together. A far more challenging story would have followed the unhappy implications that logically follow from the set-up depicting the grief that Zac Efron would feel from realising that the girl he loves is dead too and that he has reached a position in life where the only people he has significant relationships with are dead ones. But then this is a film that is arranged more around Zac Efron nobly staring into the sunset than dealing with any complex emotions.
Burr Steers next returned to genre material with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).