Film Reviews

"Charlie St. Cloud" Review: Zac Efron's Abs Star in Flatlined Tear-Jerker

In a go-nowhere Pacific Northwest town, dreamy high school sailor Charlie (played mostly by Zac Efron's abs and piercing gaze) puts his Stanford scholarship plans on indefinite hold after he momentarily flatlines in a car accident, which also takes his little brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan). Half a decade later, Charlie has sunk into a shy, brooding routine as a cemetery caretaker and meets his dead bro in the woods every sunset to toss around a baseball. 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 whose inability to let go has stunted him. 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 weepie. Charlie's way up from out of the drain is through the rousing flirtations of saucy redhead Tess (Amanda Crew), and simultaneously, the vaguely supernatural device for our hero's coping becomes so literal that Charlie actually bangs a spirit halfway between life and death.

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Aaron Hillis is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.