| Zac Efron (“High School Musical” trilogy and “Hairspray”) reunites with director Burr Steers (“17 Again”) in this romantic fantasy based on Ben Sherwood’s popular novel “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud. “
On the night of his high school graduation, Charlie (Efron) nearly died in a car accident. It gave him the unique ability to see and talk to dead people as well as those unfortunate souls approaching the white light. His 11-year-old brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan), sitting in the passenger seat was killed instantly. To keep alive his brother’s memory, Charlie makes a promise to play catch every day at sunset with his brother’s ghost.
The movie flashes forward five years to the present day. Charlie has turned his back on a sailing scholarship to attend Stanford and instead taken a job as the caretaker at the local cemetery where Sam is buried. He has turned into a shy, brooding loner with survivor guilt unable to let go of the past.
Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew from “Sex Drive”), a fellow classmate from high school whom Charlie barely knew, is entering a sailboat race around the world. She is doing some test runs in the Puget Sound near their hometown of Quincy, Wash. With their shared love of sailing, Charlie opens up to her and a budding romance develops.
Charlie faces a dilemma and is forced to choose between spending time with Tess and keeping the pact with his deceased sibling.
The paramedic (Ray Liotta) who saved his life encouraged Charlie to take advantage of the miraculous second chance. Charlie discovers his special purpose when he becomes a hero after a daring underwater rescue.
This superfluous movie is a good excuse for 11- to 18-year-old girls to spend 90 minutes with dreamboat Efron fantasizing about him as their boyfriend. With his pretty boy looks and gorgeous blue eyes, Efron, 22, is probably the most handsome heartthrob celebrity in his age range. His legion of drooling female fans would have found a photo shoot just as entertaining.
Crew, with her pleasant demeanor, doesn’t even come close to Efron in the beauty department. The whole story is preposterous and would have been better suited for television viewing. It may have worked on the written page, but it doesn’t translate well to film.
The adapted screenplay by Craig Pearce (“Moulin Rouge!” and “Strictly Ballroom”) and Lewis Colick (“Beyond the Sea” and “October Sky”) pales in comparison to “The Sixth Sense” (“I see dead people”) and “Field of Dreams” (the baseball players come out of the cornfield rather than Sam coming out of the woods). Some might find similarities to “The Ghost Whisperer” and there is even a scene mirroring one from “The Lovely Bones.”
Efron’s acting consists primarily of blank stares into space and reciting boringly ordinary dialogue. He does some kissing in a discreet nighttime sex scene and bares his chest swimming in dark water.
The movie’s main strengths are the picturesque scenic venue of Vancouver, British Columbia (standing in for the Pacific Northwest), and the crystal clear cinematography from director of photography Enrique Chediak. Sailing enthusiasts will enjoy the exciting race at the opening of the film.
Despite the monotonous and repetitive scenes throwing around a baseball, Boston Red Sox fans will delight in the reference to Ted Williams since Charlie’s sailboat bears the slugger’s nickname “The Splendid Splinter.” Sam always wears the traditional Bosox cap and jacket. The tie-in is that their father, who abandoned them, tried out for the Pawtucket minor league affiliate.
If you blink, you will miss the cameo of Kim Basinger playing the boys’ mother. The prominently displayed St. Jude medallion is the best indicator that the movie is truly a lost cause.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"