It sucks when you find a movie that looks like it’s going to be a real moving tear-jerker, then watch it and are moved to tears because of how wrong it was done. Charlie St. Cloud had this amazing concept about a man struggling to get over the loss of his brother, but then decides way too late in the movie that it wants to piss all over the sentimentality and be one of those unsuspecting M. Night Shyamalan eat-your-fucking-heart-out mind screws that’s about as on par with all of M. Night’s movies after The Sixth Sense (I know Josh, I know…).
As expected, however, Zac Efron stole the show again (easy for him ‘cause this show had nothing to it) and I’m fully convinced that the kid’s got some fucking talent and this role demanded a lot as he played Charlie St. Cloud (you mean like the title?!), an aspiring sailor who loses his younger brother Sam in a car crash that really should have taken them both. Not content that it didn’t, Charlie deals with his loss by spending the next 5 years meeting a hallucination of his brother in a forest every day at sunset to share a game of catch with him. From anger to grief to confusion to fear, Efron really plays all angles nicely, and the chemistry he had with Sam (fuck this stupid kid’s name, he couldn’t act worth shit) was spot on.
Anyway, this whole meeting in the forest thing is a moving sentiment but it’s never really built on at all. We find out that he gives up his Stanford scholarship and sailing as a result, but the movie takes about an hour to really let that sink in. Too much time is spent with Charlie and Sam just throwing a ball back and forth talking about pretty much nothing that you never get to really appreciate what this is all really doing to Charlie’s life. He is struggling to move forward, he never seems to get questioned about how fucking loony he’s gotten, and it kind of forgets that they hired Kim Basinger to play as Charlie’s mother. She’s seen once and that’s about it. I can’t call it character development more than character…staling (it’s a word, looked it up).
The pacing in this movie was horrible. It just sat there and diddled itself for three quarters of it then decided it wanted to do something…essentially it was a Broncos game, except there was no kneeling down and praying to God, it was more sitting like The Thinker trying to get Zac Efron’s shirt off so the girls would watch it, which is a route they amazingly DIDN’T take when he was fucking sailing in the water in the beginning of the movie. I was a bit surprised, it was like those movies where guys go to see it because some hot shot actress is said to be going topless at some point, but they make you wait ‘til the very end before that actually happens so you have to drudge through the rest of a crappy movie. I have to admit, I felt a little satisfaction on having that same sleazy bullshit get turned around on the opposite sex.
Also, unlike a Broncos miracle, the plot twist it tries to pull off at the end was downright silly and just made you do a double-take like “really? You’re just going to throw all of this mindless hour of catch away to try from some gripping climax that you’ve given yourself no time to actually strengthen?” It wasn’t quite as bad as “waking up and discovering it was all a dream” but…it wasn’t really far off and because it wasted so much time trying to sell us on this eternal bond between Charlie and Sam, the other characters that were supposed to mean something when it finally mattered, didn’t at all. They were basically extras with last names.
All things considered, there was enough sweetness and chemistry and good vibes in this movie to squeak by with 7 dustbusters out of 10, which for a movie that really looked like it could have been in the 9 range at the start is kind of sad. If it just didn’t try to be clever and stayed being sweet and true to its characters emotional development instead of some sappy “this was all fate” crap, it could have done a lot better and actually felt like a moving story about loss and grief. For shame Charlie St. Cloud. For shame.