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Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010 12:59 am

Charlie too much of a weeper

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Sometimes you end up wanting to like a movie more than you should and such is the case with Charlie St. Cloud. This tearjerker from director Burr Steers is as subtle as a sledgehammer as it attempts to move us with each of its shameless plot points. It isn’t shy in the way in which it ladles on the seemingly unbearable amount of heartache it contains. Yet because of its star, Zach Efron, I was able to dismiss these elements for a while and buy into this tale of a young man hobbled by grief, yet offered a chance at salvation.

Charlie’s (Efron) future is so bright that he seems to have an aura about him. (Then again that may just be the way Steers lights his beefcake star.) Set to go to Stanford, fate throws him a cruel curveball when his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) is tragically killed. Consumed by grief, Charlie decides not to go to school and instead becomes a caretaker at the cemetery where his brother is buried. At sunset each evening he can play a game of catch with Sam, from which he gathers great solace. However, when Charlie meets Tess (Amanda Crew), a fellow sailor with lofty goals, he finds himself having a hard time straddling the line between the living and the dead.

The title role is an emotionally draining one and Efron gives it his all. There seems to be no shame in this performer as he lays himself bare throughout the film. It goes without saying he has the looks and charisma of a movie star, but I believe there’s a talented actor wanting to emerge from this handsome cocoon. If Efron can wait for better scripts, like his under-seen Me and Orson Welles, he may be allowed to bloom as an actor. Charlie offers him the chance to emote, but it winds up being a lot of emotion wasted on a script that ultimately betrays his best efforts.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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