Thursday, August 26, 2010

613 - Charlie St. Cloud review



When Paul Newman died and I was reading the retrospectives, something occurred to me about the late great star: he was too good looking. At least, for his roles. Although it would be difficult to lodge a complaint about his ability as an actor, his choice of roles weren't conducive to stunningly handsome actors; prisoners, lowlifes, slob cops.

I'm reminded of Newman when I look at Zac Efron, a dashing young pretty boy who himself appears to possess more talent that his visage would imply. Handsome and at ease on camera, the star talent is obvious. It's not a total stretch to imagine him in the Tom Cruise vein, a dashing star that could open a wide range of pictures, assuming he can prove his versatility.

"Charlie St. Cloud," Efron's latest and an obvious attempt to stretch, is less than an ideal vehicle for such a purpose. A plodding melodramatic ghost story that unfolds across a scenic New England coast, it's the sort of project that must have seemed ripe with potential for the sort of actorly moments Efron-types would lunge at to prove their worth as thespians. There are, in fact, plenty of moments to please his faithful fans, which as far as I can tell almost exclusively consists of girls born in either the 80's or 90's that prefer a shirtless Efron on a big screen to that of one on a computer monitor.

Whereas few contemporary men will rush to the cinema to ogle an actress they find attractive, many women will, and director Burr Steers (who also worked with Efron on "17 Again") lovingly displays Efron as the fulfillment of girlish fantasy; stunningly handsome, tinged with gentle angst, staring thoughtfully into the sunset on his impeccable sailboat. I'd hate to compete with this guy for female attention; even my usual method of posing as the son of an oil billionaire might not work.

His character, the titular Charlie St. Cloud, is an expert sailor who forfeits a scholarship to Stanford after a devastating car crash. Charlie and his little brother are killed, though the former is resuscitated by an EMT. Two questions spring to mind in no particular order: what’s Ray Liotta doing playing the EMT, a kind and devoutly religious man? And what would the world do without the handsomeness of the elder St. Cloud child?

Charlie now tends the local graveyard and spends an hour in the woods each day to play baseball with the ghost of his brother. When a person who looks like me talks to the dead, he's considered insane. When a beautiful person does it, they're tortured and interesting. Of course, it helps that Charlie really does communicate with the dead, or the nearly-dead in some cases, but hey, no one else knows that.

So begins the plot for the fantasy, in which Efron gets to pose for the camera and fall in love with a lovely local girl who's also a fellow sail boat expert. Well, she is quite lovely, but is no match in the looks department for Charlie, which means all the non-models in the audience might have a chance themselves. There's a scene where the couple makes sweet love in the graveyard near all the corpses, which I only hope Efron’s admirers have the good sense not to replicate. I also hope that Efron's next go at being a movie star shows the good sense not to replicate much from this picture.

2 out of 5

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