Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Teen Heartthrob Zac Efron Powers ‘Charlie St. Cloud’

Charlie St. CloudCharlie St. Cloud (rated PG-13) is a sweet story about love – familial and romantic – and commitment. Charlie is a champion sailor whose prowess has won him a scholarship to Stanford. He shares a loving relationship with his kid brother, Sam, and his single-parent mom, and seems to have the respect of his teachers and fellow students when we see him at his high school graduation early in the movie. Charlie’s future seems rosy until he and Sam die in a car accident, Charlie promises Sam he will never leave him, and then an EMT brings Charlie back to life. Charlie gives up all other plans in order to meet his dead brother every evening in a nearby mountain clearing to play baseball, which had been Sam’s passion in life. Conflict enters the story when Tess, a former classmate and aspiring globe-circumnavigating sailor, pierces Charlie’s shell.

Although no one but Charlie can see Sam, there is internal evidence in the movie to suggest his visions are more supernatural than psychological. Whichever way the viewer chooses to interpret it, however, Sam serves as the foil against which Charlie must test his strength to move beyond the protected familiar of life and risk a relationship with another person.

The movie features mild language (“He’s a dick,” Charlie says to Tess about another young man in their small Northwestern seacoast town) and one satisfying fight scene in which Charlie asks his tormentor if he has dental insurance before punching his lights out. In spite of lingering kisses and a scene suggestive of Charlie and Tess having spent the night together, romance stays on a fairy-tale level.

Zac Efron is the teen heartthrob around which this movie is built; indeed, the film seems to be primarily a vehicle to show off his handsome visage and buff physique, from facial close-ups with his eyes in deep introspection to long shots of him standing, engagingly forlorn, in a forest clearing. Kudos also to the cinematography, capturing emotion from the sense of small-town quietude of streets and hillsides to the excitement of storm-tossed seas.

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