Zac Efron, he of the piercing blue eyes and perfect abs, is currently in a state of career limbo. At 22, he’s reached an age where dancing through the halls of high schools is no longer a prudent professional move, but the memory of said dancing is still fresh in the minds of moviegoers. What’s a pretty boy to do?
In Charlie St. Cloud, Efron once again teams up with director Burr Steers, who helmed last year’s 17 Again, for a film adaptation of Ben Sherwood’s 2004 novel, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud. In the film, Charlie St. Cloud, a high school senior bound for Stanford on a sailing scholarship, throws his future away (as troubled male heroes are wont to do), after his younger brother Sam dies in a car crash. This tragedy leads the once-promising athlete to hang back in his hometown — in a graveyard, no less.
Needless to say, it’s the memory of his brother — who, in this film, is an apparition of the visceral sort — that keeps Charlie from boarding his beloved sailboat and leaving his stagnant life behind. Meanwhile we must assume — from our limited knowledge of the supernatural, gleaned by such films as The Sixth Sense — that Sam is kept from ‘moving on’ by his brother’s refusal to let him go. However, Steers does not have another Sixth Sense on his hands. (Even M. Night Shyamalan can’t make that happen.) Instead, he has a melodrama colored by some lovely cinematography (and a whole lot of lingering shots of Efron).
Even the film’s big twist can’t make up for the fact that it is rife with clichés of the teen melodrama variety, leaving the film more cloying than compelling. What is more, Charlie lacks the humor of that other Burr Steers adolescent protagonist, the similarly bleak Igby of 2002’s Igby Goes Down, and thus fails to lift the script to any unexpected heights.
Efron — though he does occasionally deliver his dialogue in interesting ways — is not afforded much room to do anything beyond what is expected of a young male lead in a melodrama. Perhaps he should set his dreamy eyes on something more challenging for next time.
Natalia Cohen is an Independent intern.