Charlie St. Cloud Movie Review


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The main character in the Ben Sherwood novel, upon which Charlie St. Cloud is based, is an almost 30-year-old man faced with some truly tragic and very grown up issues. In adapting for the film, the producers chose to “make the story their own” by casting it for younger audience appeal. Doing so ensures long box office lines of 13-year-old girls with money-stuffed pockets clamoring to feast their eyes on Zac Efron’s unshirted abs. But the downside of the change is that the depth of the subject matter feels way too “adult” for such young characters.

It’s a story about love, loss, grievance, and learning how to embrace the past while discovering life and the transformative power of love. But rather than seeing any of these grown-up issues tackled head-on, we get Zac Efron moping around in a dim role clearly unsuited for his high-wattage persona. To be fair though, teen audiences don’t want the emotional burden of the heady stuff. Instead, they’d rather have their heartstrings gently tugged by the tears running down Efron’s face. And for THAT audience, the film scores big. It’s corny melodrama, and it takes itself way too seriously, but it’s also perfectly targeted to its teen-romance devouring audience.

Efron is Charlie, a champion sailor looked down upon by the rich kids in this sleepy little Pacific Northwest village. Charlie’s dad has long since disappeared, and his mother (Kim Basinger) pulls double shifts as a nurse to make ends meet, so Charlie finds companionship in his little brother, Sam. The two are inseparable.

Charlie suddenly finds himself alone however when tragedy strikes. He loses his little brother to a tragic accident and is forced to put on hold his plans of attending Stanford on a sailing scholarship. Big boy issues creep in on the recent high school graduate when he finds himself emotionally unable to let go of his dead kid brother. Now passing aimlessly through life working as a caretaker at the cemetery where Sam is buried, ambitionless Charlie is overly preoccupied with Sam’s memory. In fact, he makes a promise to meet his brother’s spirit daily at sunset, to play catch in a sunny meadow behind the graveyard. Imagine the dilemma when a girl comes into his life and Charlie must choose between keeping a promise he made to Sam, or going after the girl he loves.

None of this really goes anywhere significant however… no matter how much Efron pours on the waterworks or wanders around in a pouty daze. Once again though, chalk it up to screenwriters Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick pandering to an audience interested in nothing more than seeing Efron pour on the waterworks and wander around in a pouty daze. Even Amanda Crew as Tess Carroll, a former boating rival and classmate who’s preparing for an around-the-world boat journey, can’t ignite this sleeper into anything more than a shallow beefcake vehicle.

Basinger’s appearance as the St. Cloud matriarch is all too brief, as is that of Ray Liotta as the paramedic who brings Charlie back from death after the accident. The veteran actors lend a much-needed bit of sophistication to the proceedings, but are eventually thrown to the wayside when things begin to heat up between Charlie and Tess. Liotta’s character suddenly pops back into the picture when needed to remind the audience of the story’s themes.

Charlie St. Cloud is a harmless movie. With its PG-13 coming-of-age themes, the film is virtually critic proof. Those who go to see it because of the trailers or to see Efron’s pecs certainly won’t be disappointed. But likewise, because the film’s makers never reach beyond audience expectations, most will never want to see it again.

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
2 stars

2 stars

Blu-ray Experience
2 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 9, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 0GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live; Mobile features


Commentary Track:

  • Feature-length audio commentary track with director Burr Steers


  • On Location with Zac Efron (HD, 13 minutes)
  • Zac Efron, Leading Man (HD, 7 minutes)
  • The In-Between World (HD, 10 minutes)

Deleted Scenes (HD, 10 minutes)

Bonus Film:

  • Access to a free streaming movie via BD-Live. Choices are What Dreams May Come and Lorenzo's Oil.

BD-Live Functionality and News Ticker

My Scenes Bookmarking

PocketBlu Interactive Features