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Charlie St. Cloud: Early Film Reviews

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 29, 2010 at 8:12AM

Charlie St. Cloud opens Friday; early reviews are ice cold on Zac Efron's return to pretty-boy form. The PG-13 weepy is "Lovely Bones Lite," reviewers write, a too-sentimental fantasy.
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Thompson on Hollywood


Charlie St. Cloud opens Friday; early reviews are ice cold on Zac Efron's return to pretty-boy form. The PG-13 weepy is "Lovely Bones Lite," reviewers write, a too-sentimental fantasy.

Efron, the High School Musical darling, can't be 17 Again, but he can choose whether to continue to lure crowds who enjoy watching him emote with perfect lighting, arched eyebrows, lush eyelashes and tight abs. In 2009 Efron actually inched away from this type-casting, showing promise in Me and Orson Welles, which yielded upbeat reviews.

Not so Charlie St. Cloud, which has earned 5% on the Tomatometer thus far: the critics are having a field day; a sampling is below.

The Village Voice's Aaron Hillis stands alone in giving Charlie St. Cloud its only moderately positive review so far:

Adapted from a 2005 novel by Ben Sherwood, this blatant heartstring-puller from director Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) is more sentimental than subtle in depicting a grieving young man who's been stunted by his inability to let go. But even at its most maudlin (enter Ray Liotta as the St. Jude–praying, cancer-ridden paramedic who revived Charlie and has suddenly reconnected with him), this handsomely shot melodrama has a twist too peculiar to dismiss as some two-bit Nicholas Sparks weepy.

EW's Owen Gleiberman:

The surreal thing is, Zac Efron can't do despair. He plays it by staring. Blankly. And by not smiling. Blankly. Those sky blue eyes of his may be moody, but in Charlie St. Cloud they have only one mood — a fake-profound, lost-idol tranquillity. Instead of making you weep, he puts you in a coma. Charlie St. Cloud is as wholesome as a Miley Cyrus movie, only without the energy.

Nick Schager of Slant Magazine not only finds that "former A-lister Kim Basinger's cursory cameo as Charlie's mom is depressing," but adds:

Efron—habitually shot staring off into the distance, his face seemingly digitally airbrushed of blemishes—can't come close to expressing his contrived character's longing, hurt, and guilt…it falls apart during those moments when its protagonist broods intensely, culminating in a laughable scene in which Efron drowns his misery with a bottle of Jack Daniels. Far too pretty-boy insubstantial to carry the emotional drama of even a hoary melodramatic trifle like this, Efron only appears comfortable when asked to pose like a J. Crew model aboard a racing boat or sitting on a lighthouse perch.
Thompson on Hollywood

Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich believes you get "everything you'd expect" from this melodrama:

Hallmark aphorisms, picturesque locales, a St. Jude–stumping paramedic (Liotta). Yet it feels as if director Burr Steers is trying to cast a more complicated eye on things, to the point that Charlie’s otherworldly encounters waffle between seeming divine and delusional. And one scene—a nighttime idyll between Charlie and his soulmate-of-a-sort, Tess (Crew)—is like Mizoguchi gone tween. Shallow homilies ultimately dominate, but there’s a deeper movie trying to get out from behind the greeting card.

And finally, Peter Travers sums it up:

You can't shine a turd...This movie is dead on arrival.

This article is related to: Genres, Studios, Stuck In Love, Reviews, Summer Movies, Drama, Romance, Universal/Focus Features, Critics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.