Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Ray Liotta, Amanda Crew
Watch Charlie St. Cloud online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The High School Musical heartthrob tries to top Time Traveller’s Wife with this slushy piece of drivel. Charlie St Cloud (Efron) is a lovely young man. He has a brother, Sam (Tahan), whom he likes to punch a lot. He tells his mother how beautiful she looks. He sails boats fast. Then one day, he and little Sammy get killed in a car crash. Sadly, the movie doesn’t stop there.
Brought back to life by the magical hands of Ray Liotta (a paramedic who looks like he’s seen one too many ghosts, or one too few rehab centres), Charlie does the only thing a young man can do in his situation: get a job in a cemetery and start talking to dead people. Committed to his promise to meet his annoying dead brother at sunset every day to play baseball, Charlie is less saddled by emotional baggage and more chained to the clingiest corpse in cinema history.
And so the film spends a lot of time in a sun-bathed field with a ball, a glove and a clearly troubled 20-something. In fact, virtually the whole thing takes place at sunset, giving events the kind of orange glow you associate with sentimental nonsense. Director Burr Steers ladles golden syrup onto the screen until no more sugar will stick. It’s prettily shot, but that’s part of the problem. It’s like watching an advert for breakfast cereal. A breakfast cereal that makes Zac Efron take his clothes off.
When he isn’t busy stripping or going all Mr. Darcy in the nearby lake, Efron does his best earnest emoting. He’s likeable as an actor, but any sympathy has more to do with his eyebrows than the script. He waggles those darts of charisma all over his face, but even they can’t redeem the movie. And that’s without mentioning the contrived subplot involving Tess Carroll (Crew), a young, bereaved girl he meets by a tombstone.
Trying to move on from the past without ignoring his friends from the other side, you wonder when exactly Charlie St. Cloud will snap. Living on his own in a cabin in the woods, he lures women there with offers of beer or wine and then shows them boxes of things that belong to dead children. Then he chases them around a graveyard in the dark before taking his clothes off. If this wasn’t such a soppy 12-certificate movie, Charlie St Cloud would have all the makings of a solid slasher flick. Mawkish with an extra helping of mawk, The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud is a big chocolate box of a movie. But the chocolates are filled with vomit.
Charlie St. Cloud is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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