Tragedy strikes in the first 10 minutes of Charlie St Cloud – after setting us up with an all American hero with a cute younger brother and a hard working but single mom; Charlie dies…and then lives! Unfortunately his younger brother Sam dies and stays dead in the car accident and Charlie’s hopes for a life at Stanford on a sailing scholarship are dashed.
Set in Smalltown-by-the-Sea USA this film is full of pioneer spirit.
The scenes when Charlie (Zac Efron) and Sam play catch together in the graveyard (every sunset for 5 years!) are magic and the casting of Charlie Tahan as Sam is perfect, he is sassy and sensitive by turns. Thankfully these scenes provide some chemistry as the ones between Charlie and love interest Tess (Amanda Crew) are sadly lacking – the 2 leads do not spark off of each other at all, its must be hard when Zac is so much prettier than his co-star.
Charlie’s gifts after he has been dead for a bit is that he can see dead people but not only that he can touch them too, which as he has fallen into the job of caretaker at the cemetery makes for some interesting encounters. Cleverly getting Charlie’s mum (played by Kim Basinger looking younger than her co-star) out of the picture early on means that Charlie is totally on his own except for his dead brother Sam.
The camera lives Zac Efron and there are lots of close ups of his tear filled eyes or broody profile. He wins the wet t-shirt competition hands down and Burr Steers direction allows us some gratuitous leering at Zac in various stages of undress and soaked to the skin.
For some reason there is a bizarre and pointless cockney geezer (Augustus Prew) in the role of Charlie’s co-worker and best mate Alistair– why? It doesn’t make sense that he would end up in this small town where everyone leaves and only returns when they are dead, presumably someone in the team thought he would provide some much needed comic relief – being cockney after all is seen as funny to the yanks – Jack Sparrow anyone? Unfortunately it does not pay off as this is a humourless film (they do try to lighten the mood with a strangely inappropriate joke about the dead 11 year old Sam having a J Arthur over the picture of Charlie’s love interest – ew!) Ray Liotta gives a cameo as the paint by numbers dying man who tries to help Charlie find his way and find out God’s purpose (good luck with that one). It’s a small part and Ray can’t do much with it.
We are given a prerequisite happy ending but they over hokeyed the last few minutes Return of the King style and they need cutting out completely to be honest. It’s a sweet film but weak. It is not breaking any new ground in terms of story and the performances are average as is the script. Zac Efron is the only good thing in it as he is so nice to look at but he is miscast in this role and much better when he is being perky and funny. Teenage girls will love it no doubt.