Title: Charlie St. Cloud
Directed by: Burr Steers (Big Love, Weeds)
Starring: Zac Efron
His head is in the clouds when the movie first opens, as he just won a sailing competition with his younger brother. But his mood drastically changes when his brother is killed in a car accident, especially since he was supposed to be taking care of him. The new dramatic fantasy ‘Charlie St. Cloud,’ starring Zac Efron in the title role and Amanda Crew, is a break in the storm of the recent summer action-thriller blockbusters, not only plot-wise, but in the acting sense as well. But the movie isn’t entirely smooth-sailing.
When the numerous advertisements for ‘Charlie St. Cloud’ began to circulate before its July 30 theatrical release, the movie seemed like it would be the romantic fantasy version of the 1999 summer hit ‘The Sixth Sense.’ The trailers mainly focused on the grief sailor Charlie (played by Efron) was experiencing after his younger brother Sam (played by Charlie Tahan of ‘I Am Legend’) died in the aforementioned car accident. Charlie is shown wanting to stay connected to Sam’s ghost while juggling his growing romantic feelings for another sailor, Tess (played by Crew, from ‘The Haunting in Connecticut’).
But the plot was surprisingly more light and upbeat than would be expected, as after Sam dies, the movie unexpectedly jumps five years into the future. Now 23, Charlie decided to stay in the town he grew up in, and has become the caretaker for the local cemetery. While his mother moved to Portland, Maine, Charlie feels the need to stay close to where Sam was buried. He wants to keep the promise he made to his brother before he was supposed to go to Stamford on a sailing scholarship. Every night at sunset, Charlie plays catch with Sam’s ghost in the woods.
But instead of feeling the need to always be with Sam’s ghost, as the trailers made it seems, Charlie makes the right decision to finally open up to Tess in an effort to move on with his life. While Tess is supposed to leave to sail around the world by herself for six months, Charlie still wants to get to know her, and finally feels comfortable enough with another person to talk about Sam.
Efron was definitely the breakout star of ‘Charlie St. Cloud,’ proving that he could move away from the teen musicals, including ‘High School Musical’ and ‘Hairspray,’ that made him famous. With this movie, Efron proves he’s really take on more dramatic roles. While it seemed as though Charlie was attracted to Tess at first because she was also a sailor, Efron was able to mature the role as the movie went on. He proved that even though Charlie felt responsible for his brother’s death, people can move on from tragedies and find deeper connections with other people.
However, Tahan also delivered memorable lines, and was able to bring comedic relief to otherwise depressing scenes. At just 12-years-old, Tahan proves that no matter how sad a situation is, kids can lighten the mood with jokes that you wouldn’t even realize they knew.
While ‘Charlie St. Cloud’ was anticipated even before the book it was based on, ‘The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud,’ was released in 2004, the movie version won’t entirely live up to readers’ expectations. People may be interested in seeing it, as it’s the movie Efron decided to take instead of continuing down the musical path and accepting the role of Ren McCormack in the ‘Footloose’ remake, which Kevin Bacon made famous in the original. But people may be confused on why director Burr Steers gave Charlie the ability to see and talk to ghosts after Sam died without fully explaining why. For example, Charlie is also able to talk to the ghost of his high school friend Sully (played by Dave Franco), who died while serving in the army, but it’s not entirely known why. The only hint the audience is given is that Charlie said he should have been there with Sully when he died.
Rated PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality, ‘Charlie St. Cloud’ will appeal to not only Efron’s fans, but to everyone who understands grief and the pain of losing a loved one. But considering the movie was in development for over six years, Universal Pictures, the studio that released it, definitely had more than enough time to better develop the characters. Ultimately, the only thing saving ‘Charlie St. Cloud’ is its cast, which also includes Kim Basinger, who played Charlie and Sam’s mother Claire, and Ray Liotta, as Florio Ferrente, the paramedic who save Charlie’s life, in cameo roles.
Written by: Karen Benardello