Charlie St Cloud

A teenaged girl will probably respond to the name Zac Efron just as quickly as they would to Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.  The “High School Musical” Franchise is almost as popular as the “Twilight Saga”.  Zac Efron is the face of HSM movies along with his winning smile, beautiful blue eyes and his singing and dancing.  No actor wants to get pigeonholed into one type of role forever so they try to take on different roles before they find themselves playing the same type of character to the end of their careers.  Zac gave comedy a try with “17 Again”.  Now, he really challenges himself with the new drama “Charlie St. Cloud”.  Unfortunately, he was not up to the challenge.

Talent like Pattinson and Efron often get pegged as “pretty boy” actor who cannot act.  Efron’s main problem in this movie is the amount of acting he does.  It’s best to know the plot of the movie before that point can be explored further.  Charlie St. Cloud is a popular boy in high school who earned himself a sailing scholarship to college.  Shortly after his high school graduation he is driving with his little brother, Sam (Charlie Taham) and the two are involved in an auto accident that claims Sam’s life.  Sam may be dead; but, Charlie still sees Sam everyday at dusk in the forest to play catch with his dead brother and just hang out and play together.  So that’s why five years later he is still living in the same town, he deferred his scholarship in order to keep seeing his brother everyday.

Sam is not the only dead person Charlie can see.  He encounters other dead people too.  He talks to them, jokes with them, he can even have sex with them if he wants (yes, that IS kind of gross).  Charlie and Sam’s daily get together is threatened when Tess (Amanda Crew) an old high school classmate and sailing rival of Charlie comes back to town to prepare for a race.  She and Charlie start to get involved, much to the dismay of Sam.  When Tess goes missing preparing for the race, Charlie believes he is the only one who can save her.

Any character that loses a kid brother will obviously go through a lot of emotions throughout the course of the movie.  Zac Efron, tries as he might, can’t pull off any of them.  From the very first frame of this movie, you don’t believe he is this character.  This is a very important trait for any actor to have.  When we see Tom Hanks in “Forest Gump” we don’t see Tom Hanks on the screen, we see the character he is playing and believes it.  When we see Heath Ledger play The Joker in “The Dark Knight” we don’t see Heath Ledger we see The Joker.  We know we are watching Tom Hanks and Heath Ledger on the screen, but we don’t think about them as Tome hanks or Heath Ledger we only see the character they are playing.  It’s unfair to compare Zac Efron to these Oscar winning performers, but this is what acting is all about.  We do believe the characters Taham and Crew are portraying which makes Efron’s problems more evident on the screen.  When you see Zac Efron in this movie you can’t help to think to yourself that you are watching Zac Efron, the actor, acting on screen, and NOT the character he is suppose to inhabit.  He never seems natural, and his performance can be described as stilted.  He doesn’t even seem real when he is pissed off.

This movie is supposed to be a tearjerker; but, the movie will probably produce very few wet eyes in the house.  Director Burr Steers has to take some of the blame for that.  He tries the typical devices in this movie to get you to tear up.  The score is often a downer. There is a scene of Charlie running through the forest as he relives the accident in quick flashbacks.  Relying on stunts like this is cheap and it takes more than that to generate a tear.  Steers and Efron do create SOME true moments in the movie; but, not many.  These scenes come at the end of the movie, after the final conflict of the film.  Perhaps these were shot last, and Efron was finally able to relax.  If so, there is still hope for the young actor.  Until then, “Charlie St. Cloud” can only be a tiny steppingstone in the young man’s career.  It’s not one any of us needs to sit through.