DIR: Burr Steers • WRI: Craig Pearce, Lewis Colick • PRO: Michael Fottrell, Marc Platt • DOP: Enrique Chediak • ED: Padraic McKinley • DES: Ida Random • CAST: Zac Efron, Amanda Crew, Charlie Tahan
Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud had the potential to be a pretty interesting, dark story of mental illness and grief, but is unfortunately wrapped in the swaddling of a cheesy, majorly ‘Disneyfied’ disaster of a script. Charlie St Cloud (Efron) and his little brother Sam (Tahan) are best friends who are torn apart by a tragic car accident. Charlie survives, Sam doesn’t, but soon after his death Charlie starts to meet Sam’s ghost every evening at sunset to play baseball. Five years later, Charlie is working in the graveyard where Sam is buried and completely unable to move on with his life, foregoing a college scholarship in favour of hanging out with his dead brother.
The film is shot expertly and is remarkably easy on the eye. Shot around Vancouver, Canada, the idyllic seaside town is beautiful and evokes a sense of perfection, which gradually becomes a tragic trap in the second act. Director, Burr Steers keeps the story ticking along well and the rare moments of doom and gloom are affecting at times. However, the major problem with this film is in its outrageously sappy script. Think Nicolas Sparks crossed with The Ghost Whisperer and you’re halfway there. In fact, this film would be more comfortable on the Hallmark Channel than in the cinema. As the story twists and turns, you can stay on board to a certain extent given the fantastical concept but towards the end, the writers take things a little too far. I don’t know how the story ended in the book but the final twenty minutes of the film are inconceivably lame.
If this is Zac Efron’s way of trying to become a ‘serious actor’ he’s going to have to try harder. His acting is actually pretty good. As he proved in last year’s likeable Me & Orson Welles he has fantastic screen presence and is well able for the high drama and the tender moments. The camera loves him (and his wet/naked torso, which is highlighted at every opportunity, proving the ‘feminine gaze’ is alive and well). Unfortunately there is little to work with here as the script is so terrible that no actor could make it seem any less vomit-inducing.
Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is a supernatural drama that had the potential to be touching, but is far too soft for its own good. Any darkness in the story is usurped by the fairytale ending and the unwillingness of the filmmakers to take Efron’s fanbase out of their tween comfort zone.