CHARLIE ST. CLOUD By Gary Dean Murray Starring Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Ray Liotta and Kim Basinger Written by Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick Directed by Burr Steers Running time 93 min MPAA Rating PG-13 Selig Film Rating Matinee Zac Efron is trying to make the transition from teen idol to serious actor. The former High School Musical star has been turning in some solid performances in different major motion pictures for the last few years with various degrees of success. With every big budget smash flick like Hairspray, he's done some independent films such as Me and Orson Welles which saw a small box office but had critical acclaim. He latest is the specter melodrama Charlie St. Cloud. Zac plays the title character, a young sailing star who is about to graduate high school and go to Stanford on a sailing scholarship. He has a precious little brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) and an overworked Mom (Kim Basinger). The two boys fight and pick on each other, but deep down the two truly have a brotherly bond. On the weekend of his graduation, Charlie has to babysit his little brother instead of going to a farewell kegger thrown by his buddies who are off to war. Charlie decides to take Sam to a friends house, going against Mom's wishes. Charlie promises Sam that they will spend every day at sunset practicing his baseball fundamentals if he goes along with the plan. On the way to drop Sam off, the two are in a terrible car wreck. Paramedic Florio (Ray Liotta) saves Charlie but cannot save Sam. With Charlie coming back from the dead, Florio believes that he has witnessed a miracle and that Charlie has been given a second chance at life. Flash forward five years and Charlie is a grounds keeper at the cemetery where Sam is buried. Mom is long gone, trying to build a new life in another city. When the cannon thunder signals nightfall, Charlie goes to the woods and Sam is waiting for him. It seems that Charlie can see dead people and Sam has refused to cross over to the other side. The two are in limbo, with Sam never going to the afterlife and Charlie never living his life. Charlie is known as the slightly cracked loner by everyone in the town. Enter Tess (Amanda Crew). She's a former sailing competitor who has gone on to bigger fame. With her coach, they are planning to participate in an around the world sailing event. Tess has a striking command of the sea but cannot shake the competitive spirit she feels when she is near Charlie. One can tell that Charlie is envious about all that Tess has accomplished in a short few years. On the night of a bad storm. Tess shows up at Charlies small cemetery cabin and the two begin a relationship, much to the chagrin of Sam. How all these elements play out is what drives Charlie St. Cloud to its inevitable conclusion. As a starring vehicle, this is another strong performance from Zac. While the story is very simplistic and the twist seen a mile away, Zac does a good job at giving the audience a large range of emotions. We see him both laugh and cry, while never losing the basic tenants of his character. He proves that he can carry a heavy dramatic part while infusing a light touch to the proceedings. His scenes battling the geese near the cemetery show the lighter side of his character. Amanda Crew has a great chemistry with Zac, showing all the elements one wants in what is a basic, thumbnail part. She is the non-threatening girl next door, the kind of young woman that the teens in the audience can relate to and imagine falling for Zac. Though she does get a little chance to show some depth toward the end of the piece. The biggest find in Charlie St. Cloud is Charlie Tahan as little brother Sam. He just pulls at the heartstrings while delivering a reading that shows both warmth and humor. His is the hardest role, the one surrounded in mystery but he takes us in a solid direction. Our two big stars—Ray Liotta and Kim Basinger are basically cameo performances with Basinger almost being a 'blink and you miss it' turn. The second unit has to be praised for giving some of the most striking visual images of the year. The scenes of the sailing that pepper the film are breathtaking in composition and tone. The craftsmen who put these images on the screen are almost painting a picture with the elements, giving a warmth to the sea faring vistas. A film like Charlie St. Cloud will never win the Oscar but it should bring in the 'tween audience it aims for, making back all the money put out. It is spiritual without being religious, heartfelt without being heavy handed. It is romantic without being sexual and morose without being morbid. And we get some e.e. cummings poetry. This is just the kind of film like The Notebook which will be watched over and over again by young women wanting a relationship like the one portrayed on screen. Charlie St. Cloud is not a bad little film but it is not made for an old guy like me.

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