The Austin Chronicle

Charlie St. Cloud

Rated PG-13, 95 min. Directed by Burr Steers. Starring Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Augustus Prew, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger, Donal Logue.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 30, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud sees dead people. Continuing his effort to break free of his perpetual high-schooler roles, Efron reteams with his 17 Again director to play a character closer to his own age. Although Charlie is graduating high school at the beginning of this new film, the story jumps ahead five years, where we find the character has become a mortality-obsessed young man of 23. The sudden accidental death of his younger brother has sent Charlie into an emotional tailspin. He has abandoned his college plans (he’s deferred on his sailing scholarship to Stanford) and has taken a job as the live-in caretaker at the cemetery where his brother is buried. Although Charlie plays a daily game of catch with the ghost of his dead brother, you almost expect to find him pulling a Yorick’s skull from his catcher’s mitt, so eager is Efron to display his dramatic chops. And the kid has some, to be sure – as if he didn’t already demonstrate those abilities in Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles. Yet there is a certain kineticism to Efron’s physical presence that may always make him a questionable choice when casting gloomy, emotionally pent-up characters. Nevertheless, Efron does a serviceable job in this young-adult drama that blends elements of fantasy, romance, and weepies into a package that is unconventional despite its relative predictability. Particularly unusual is the film’s lovely seaside setting and all the young sailing competitors. A problematic flock of geese also serves as a nice comic foil. As a fellow sailor and Charlie’s love interest, Crew delivers a strong performance, and supporting work by such pros as Liotta, Basinger, and Logue doesn’t hurt either. Though the soundtrack comes on kind of heavy, the cinematography (by Enrique Chediak) has a beautiful clarity. Yorick’s skull or not, Charlie St. Cloud is no Shakespearean drama, but the film should prove to be another solid stepping stone for Efron on his way to a long adult career.

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