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Movie Review: Charlie St. Cloud

July 30, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud – A Universal Pictures’ Release

Release Date: July 30th

Rated PG language may offend

Running time: 98 minutes


Burr Steers (dir.)


Craig Pearce (screenplay)

Lewis Colick (screenplay)


Based on the book The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood


Rolfe Kent (music)


Zac Efron as Charlie St. Cloud

Charlie Tahan as Sam St. Cloud

Amanda Crew as Tess Carroll

Augustus Prew as Alistair Wooley

Donal Logue as Tink Weatherbee

Kim Basinger as Claire St. Cloud

Ray Liotta as Florio Ferrente

Dave Franco as Sully



Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Sam (Charlie Tahan) and Charlie (Zac Efron) in Charlie St. Cloud


Our reviews below:


Charlie St. Cloud Review By John C.

** (out of 4)

Five years after the accidental death of his brother Sam (Charlie Tahan), Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) still keeps his promise of teaching his younger brother baseball by playing a supernatural game every night at sunset, not far off from the cemetery where he works.  Things get complicated when Charlie starts to fall for sailor girl Tess (Amanda Crew), and Sam’s jealous departure from limbo to heaven may not be far on the horizon.  We even get a steamy romantic scene that takes place in the rain between gravestones, and it’s sure to have young hearts racing, but it almost feels perverse by the time we reach the film’s climax.


Between all the grieving and grave digging Charlie has still found the time to keep his hair styled and face clean-shaven.  Efron –  a good actor in better movies – has not stepped out of his comfort zone, but has rather played a more demanding role while still keeping his Disney image.  When he cries, there are tears, but the close-ups on his, or any of the actors eyes, barely portray true sadness and longing.


I read the source book a few weeks back in preparation for the film, and I found it to be an okay, but uneven piece of literature.  It seemed as if the author, Ben Sherwood, was barely scratching the surface and not mining the complete potential of the storyline and material.  I liked the movie a bit better than the book, but to put it simply, the book was very uneven, where the movie just isn’t that good.  The quiet scenes are overscored, and the general tone is overly cloying.


I normally like the type of subject matter displayed here, but Charlie St. Cloud completely lost me with its logic of the interactions between the living and the dead.  Charlie is just the medium between both worlds, not the force keeping Sam here.  So when Sam says that the more Charlie is in Tess’s world, the less he’s in his, this isn’t physically possible, but rather just playing off the human emotion of jealousy.  And if there’s just his spirit remaining, then how is physical touch possible?


Part of what made a film like Ghost or Ghost Town so powerful was that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t reach out and touch the loved one you lost.  When physical touch is possible, then not only is the sense of longing lost, but also the visual reminder that there is a clear separation between them as they are not both in the same world.  There is a twist here that clearly mirrors a truly shocking one in a better movie, and let me tell you, this is one of those twists that will either deeply move you or leave you scratching your head.  The twist is needless by the time it reaches it’s ending, and it just feels as if it was added to make things “interesting.”


I know that it’s okay to be asked to take a leap of faith or logic, but my mind wouldn’t have been wandering had I felt some emotional satisfaction or had things been better explained.  Charlie St. Cloud left me dry-eyed when it should have had me reaching for the tissues, and comfortably reclining when it should have had me on the edge of my seat.


I’m clearly not the target demographic, but that shouldn’t matter had this been a more emotionally rounded film.  You shouldn’t have to be physically attracted to the main actor to make a film emotionally moving.  Charlie St. Cloud is far from either the best or worst of the year, but it just cements itself as very average where it could have been really good.


Charlie St. Cloud Review By Erin V.

**3/4 (out of 4)

Charlie St. Cloud starts out about two brothers.  Charlie (Zac Efron) and Sam (Charlie Tahan).  They both are accomplished sailors, which has won Charlie a scholarship to Stanford.  But when both of them are in a tragic car accident, Sam is killed and Charlie nearly is.  Now wracked with survivor guilt, he is unable to let go and continue with his own life, opting out of Stanford and giving up sailing altogether.  Staying where he is, even five years after the fact, his own near death experience still allows him to see his brother every night for an hour before sunset.


When he runs into another sailor, Tess (Amanda Crew), whom he’d known in highschool, he starts to let himself move on.  But then she goes missing after taking her boat out in a storm, and Charlie is forced back on the water to try to find her.


There’re some mildly confusing elements in the film as it does deal a bit into supernatural, but I didn’t find it that bad – it’s just not very clear.  It is a teen-romance and I think the Zac Efron fan-crowd will really go for it.  I did find the messages of the film to be nice, albeit quite obvious, although the music – while fine on its own – overscored the scenes at times.  The acting is fine for the storyline, with the script and the actors working on about the same level.  The cinematography – as well-groomed as the film’s main lead – is nice on the big screen with plenty of nature shots.


Simply put, it’s not a bad movie in my book.  For what it was I liked it, and would recommend it for it’s target audience.


Charlie St. Cloud Review By Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

Based on the novel by Ben Sherwood, Charlie St. Cloud tells an interesting story of life, death and knowing when to let go.  The title character, Charlie (Zac Efron), is a young man who is very close to his little brother, Sam.  When both brothers end up in a car crash killing Sam, Charlie spirals into survivor guilt.  Having flatlined for only a few seconds, Charlie now has the ability to still see him every day at sunset.  This goes on for five years straight.  Charlie is still in grief, and has put his love of sailing on hold.


Until one day, when he meets an old friend from high school, a pretty young woman named Tess (Amanda Crew), who plans to sail around the world alone.  The more Charlie spends with Tess, the less he sees Sam.  Charlie now must make a decision, whether to stay in the past, or move forward with his life.  But when Tess is in danger, Charlie must use his extrasensory abilities to save her life.  This part of the movie is a little confusing, and would be best understood on second viewing.


I don’t expect Charlie St. Cloud to win any Oscars.  But the scenery is beautiful, as is the score by Rolfe Kent.  I especially liked the religious messages in this film.  In one scene, Ray Liotta, as the paramedic who saved Charlie’s life, tells Charlie that God saved him for a reason.


Charlie St. Cloud is a wholesome movie that will appeal mainly to the 10-20 year old female market, but will charm older viewers as well.


Charlie St. Cloud Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

My inner 14-year old self thinks Charlie St. Cloud is a really romantic movie and Zac Efron as Charlie is sooo hot.  My grown-up self thinks Charlie St. Cloud is an interesting story with beautiful scenery, a pleasant score, and has some nice romantic elements.  However, it somehow misses the mark when it comes to making the most of what is supposed to be the main plotline.


Based on the novel, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, by Ben Sherwood, the story is about the relationship between Charlie (Zac Efron) and his recently deceased younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan).  Charlie has the ability to interact with the spirits of those who are stuck between this world and the next.  Because of a promise Charlie made to Sam before Sam died, Charlie spends the five years following Sam’s death meeting Sam in the woods every evening at sunset to practise baseball pitches.


Charlie has put his life on hold, giving up a sailing scholarship at Stanford and works as a caretaker at the cemetery where Sam is buried.  Life changes for Charlie when he meets up with Tess (Amanda Crew) a former classmate who is going on a solo sail around the world.


The romance between Charlie and Tess is what will interest teenage fans the most.  There is an interesting but somewhat confusing twist in the romantic storyline.  The main message here is that sometimes God gives someone a second chance at life for a reason.  Usually that reason is love.


If you are looking for a pretty to look at movie with a romance between two good-looking leads then Charlie St. Cloud will do.  However if you are looking for a story about the connection between loved ones who have died and are having trouble moving on then this movie will disappoint.  The interactions between Charlie and Sam never feels genuine, and the ghost/spirit storyline has been done so much better in other movies.


Go see this one if you like any romantic drama or are a big Zac Efron fan.  He looks perfect in every scene.


Charlie St. Cloud Review By Tony

** (out of 4)

After the opening scene of Charlie St. Cloud where Charlie (Zac Efron) and his brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) win a sailing race, Charlie promises that until he goes off to Stanford in the fall on a sailing scholarship, he will help Sam with baseball practice every evening as the sunset cannon sounds in their northwestern seaside town (actually the Vancouver suburb of Gibsons). Their car is then hit by a truck that kills Sam, but Charlie is revived after a near death experience that leaves him able to see dead people.  Five years later Charlie is still in town, managing the cemetery next to the woods where he has kept his daily baseball date with Sam’s ghost. Though the whole town thinks Charlie is crazy, former classmate Tess (Amanda Crew), back in town to prepare for a round the world solo sailboat race, appears to take an interest in him when he shows her his boat sketches.  What happens next is subject to speculation, but there are scenes of Sam trying to hang onto Charlie and a strange midnight cemetery tryst, before Charlie goes out to rescue Tess three days after she is lost and presumed dead at sea.


Charlie St. Cloud will no doubt appeal to Zac Efron fans but for the rest of us the brooding ghost story may well fall flat, as it did for me.  The overly sentimental musical score doesn’t help.  At least the Canadian scenery was nice, and with many Canadians in minor roles the cast was serviceable, but the leads were no better than the material they had to work with.


Consensus: Despite having a certain appeal as a good-looking romance, the subject matter in Charlie St. Cloud isn’t explained well enough.  Although the tone is overly cloying, and it doesn’t hold up well to close scrutiny, it will still be enjoyed by it’s target audience. **1/2 (Out of 4)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brooke permalink
    September 8, 2012 10:02 pm

    I want to go see that it looks really good to me


    • September 8, 2012 10:28 pm

      It’s been out on DVD for a while now, so you should have a pretty easy time finding it in stores!

      -John C.


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