Review: 'Charlie St. Cloud' - One Efron Away From Being Awful

July 30, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud Review

"Trust your heart if the seas catch fire, live by love though the stars walk backward." As we learn from the titular and ghost-seeing character in the new film, Charlie St. Cloud, this quote from poet E.E. Cummings is about taking chances. It couldn't literally be about stars walking backward. That's just silly. Chances. The act of stepping outside your boundaries and doing something far from your own comfort zone, almost reckless even, that may be met with absolute success or outright failure.

Unfortunately, the people behind Charlie St. Cloud may be looking for stars to walk backward or seas to actually catch fire (let's put those Louisiana jokes back in the box), because the film they have created is one without chances, without risks of any kind, really, and the series of poor choices creates a saccharine web of lame dialogue and unimaginative plot points. It should have been called White Noise instead for a number of reasons.

Charlie, played by Zac Efron, is a highly successful high schooler. He has just received a boating scholarship to his college of choice and his loving mother and younger brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan), support him in everything. Everything changes one night when Charlie and Sam are in a violent car crash, one that kills Sam and leaves Charlie flat-lined for a few moments. When Charlie miraculously comes to, though, he finds he can see Sam's apparition. Thinking it is the ghost of his dead brother, Charlie makes a promise to meet Sam in the woods every day at the same time so neither of them are forced to face life or afterlife alone.

Five years pass, and Charlie, honoring the promise he made, stays grounded to his hometown and connected to his long-lost brother by the guilt inside him. It isn't until a girl from Charlie's past comes back into his life that the possibilities of breaking away from the ghostly image comes to the forefront of Charlie's head. Once that happens, though, Charlie finds himself torn between the promise of a life and the promise he once made to the dead.

The problems with Charlie St. Cloud, really one, serious problem that rears its ugly head throughout the course of the film, are evident from the first scene. It involves a boat race with Charlie and Sam, not yet expired to the land of mystical catch-playing. The tone in this scene, as is the case with the tone throughout the film, is all wrong. Directed by Burr Steers, the man who brought us the surprisingly comical 17 Again last year, the opening scene is paced and shot like an action film complete with fast-moving helicopter shots that zoom into the brothers' boat as if it were a police cruiser chasing a boat full of drug dealers. Any scene should never be shot this frantically without bullets flying and squibs popping.

It all comes down to choices, really. How does one approach the scene at hand? What underlying feel should the filmmaker be going for based on what the screenplay calls for? Sadly, Steers seems to make one poor choice after another. The moments between Charlie and Amanda Crew (Tess Carroll) as the girl who walked back into his life (I seriously think that might be her character name) are genuinely brutal. Moments after these scenes present themselves, we are offered flashbacks to them for specific reasons, and the second time is even more brutal than the first. Charlie St. Cloud never feels like its own film, but, rather, a series of themes, ideas, and styles that are thrown in simply because that's what this type of heart-string tugger is meant to include.

Unfortunately, the only thing successfully tugged or even moved throughout Charlie St. Cloud is the viewers' patience, as it wears thin. By the time other ghosts and plodding left turns thrown into Charlie's world come around, we simply don't care. We just want his brother to walk into the light of the afterlife so that we can walk into the light of the theater lobby.

If there is a success to be found in Charlie St. Cloud, it's in the emotional weight Efron brings to the main character. Appearing in virtually every scene, his performance very nearly saves the film from being a complete waste. The emotions that rise from the character might be lost on Steers, but Efron seems to know where they need to go. He presents them in every distant look and in every tear he pinches out of his eyes. It really is a travesty to see such a fine actor giving such an impeccable performance in a film that has absolutely zero emotional movement elsewhere.

The saccharine identity strewn throughout Charlie St. Cloud is hardly forgivable. The film's finale takes place at sea with Charlie and two others (Donal Logue in one of the film's many wasted roles; Don't even get me started on Kim Basinger as Charlie's absent mother or Ray Liotta as the devout paramedic who brought Charlie back to life) making a daring rescue attempt. At what or who is probably best left for those who want to view the film spoiler-free, but it really doesn't matter. The one thing they can't rescue is the water-drenched celluloid used to shoot it all. That's not salt water they're treading across. It's sugar water, and the bitter aftertaste hits very soon after consuming.

Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10

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Efron seems to be the only saving grace for this, and I saw that coming. The guy can act and is doing his best to shed his Highshcool Musical fame (for better or worse) and get into actual acting, so Charlie St. Cloud is just practice for him I'd say.

Xerxex on Jul 30, 2010


I agree with Xerxex, what efron needs is a gritty role. Maybe, he can learn something from JGL.

dex on Jul 30, 2010


This movie wasn't good? dang I actually thought it looked to be an okay movie.

Rooney on Jul 31, 2010


Meh, I'm still seeing it with my girlfriend.

Aaron on Jul 31, 2010


this movie made me cry i told my girlfriend and she loved it 

kevin on Mar 20, 2012


I saw the movie and STRONGLY disagree, I have seen High School Musical a zillion times and even though I already like Zac- I believe he was outstanding in this film. He deserves an academy award in my opinion. Maybe if you don't like an actor to begin with you should'nt be allowed to rate them. He is the next Brad Pitt! Kristen on Jul 31, 2010

Kristen on Jul 31, 2010



Dayned941 on Mar 1, 2011


I agree. This film is nice. Zac had showned his real talent in here. Kudos to Zac!

Gena Mabutas on Apr 30, 2011


LMAO Kristen. You must be 12!! There is no way this movie could be anywhere near good!!

Ferley on Jul 31, 2010


I go to the movies to be entertained, not to critic. I find it sad that people can't simply enjoy the time that a movie gives you to escape from reality. Effron was great and the kid was great too. Both of them made all those feelings come alive and thats what a movie should do. Make you feel something. (if you are capable of that)

Vic on Jul 31, 2010


zac efron is hollow as an actor,all technique and zero charisma.He needs to loosen up and play a gay zombie,a whale-horse,or something completely over-the-top.This whole 'serious actor' business is turning out stale. this already looked boring as hell,the term "boat scholarship" was the nail in the coffin.

twispious on Aug 1, 2010


I disagree I personally had 0 respect for zac efron not did I like him as an actor until I saw this film. I think this was a great moving flick.

Braddpowers on Feb 8, 2011


I thought the movie was great. The scenery was beautiful! I thought Zac did a great great job! He's going places! I have never seen any of his other work, but I know in this movie, he was outstanding. I'd see it again and I'd tell everyone else to see it too.

Ccburney on Aug 1, 2010


I absolutely loved this movie! I would go see it over and over again! However, I think for everyone who didn't like it you just didn't "get it or appreciate it" in a way, or your just into movies with more excitement and your girlfriend or someone made u watch it. My dads into sailing which made me want to see the movie, Zac Effron was just a bonus:) I think he is an amazing actor and did an astounding job in this movie.

meg on Aug 1, 2010


I disagree, this is by far the best movie out right now, zac efron captures the raw emotion of charlie st cloud perfectly. Anyone that has a heart an feels emotion should go see it!

g-dawg on Aug 1, 2010


This review is crap. Either the writer didn't watch or has feeling. I felt it was a wonderful movie with strong characters. I loved Efron. Death sucks! Plain and simple it is hard and we hate it. This movie showed how a person is changed by it. Go see it!

Jessy on Aug 1, 2010


Yea so I saw it with my gf and.... It was pretty darn good. The beginning scene did not have identity crisis at all. This director is pretty new and he didn't have much to work with camera angle and lighting wise with 17 Again since it was a comedy, but this was obviously the movie he's using to learn new tricks such as how to make a fun intense scene with all the moving camera angles and the lighting in the forest with the candle and when they kissed. Also for the acting I was decently impressed, Zac definitely had a future ahead of him and calling him the next Brad Pitt is spot on I think because Brad Pitt IMO is not in the ranks of Leo and Will Smith, but is still pretty damn good and is eye candy for the women, so I think he could live up to that. But my only complaint is that it dragged on for a bit too long for it's own good, I started to get bored for about 15 min near the end.

Aaron on Aug 2, 2010


The girls want to see it, Guys need to go to get it, The ticket guy is laughin', The director's moves a gaffin', The plot comes off so tame, Effron is the flame, Makes the females lose their brain, The makers of this film are brilliant! I bet $27+ million gross.

tivdatsun on Aug 2, 2010


I'm going to agree with Jessy and Aaron- First of all the opening scenes got your attention right away. And I think everything was strung together pretty well. I always read the books before going to see the movies and I believe myself to be a tough critic too but comparing the book and the movie they were both good. Death is an unbelievably hard subject to capture because the way people deal with grief and other emotions is all so different. It may have been bad to you because perhaps that's not the way you do things- but Zac Efron did a damn good job at not being his typical high school musical role. I give him props for going out of his comfort zone! For all you haters, that's what makes them so famous- because you keep talking about them and the negative comments always push people to do better the next time! He's young- and you have to remember Rome wasn't built in one day! He could be a phenomenal actor someday!

Liz on Aug 2, 2010


The next Brad Pitt!!? Lmmfao! This shit is garbage and the 4 stars he gave was generous. I wouldn't watch this on bootleg for free.

Black Dynamite on Aug 3, 2010


I thought this was a great movie! I don't see why everyone is bashing it. Tess being a "ghost like" character for a majority of the movie and giving Charlie clues as to saving her gave the movie a twist and after all of their series of events together, brought the movie to clarity. Charlie moving on and taking a chance going after the girl instead of going to Sam may have been sad but it was what gave the movie emotion. I personally loved it and think it was all about teaching people how to move on with a twist!

PhilsPhan on Aug 3, 2010


I don't even like High School Musical, and I'm pretty positive that all you who are bashing it and haven't even seen it yet, or even have seen it, are only saying negative things because Zac Efron is in it, and according to you, he's only in crappy films like High School Musical. Rest assured, this is no crappy movie. I FULLY enjoyed this film. I'm very critical when it comes to acting in films, and will hate a film because of even one actor that is not realistic, but this film i certainly do not hate. The relationships that were developed and portrayed in this film were completely believable because the acting was so real. Although the ending is an obvious, I too, like you who think Zac would be in a crappy film only, expected it to be a complete Hollywood predictable film, but I'm sorry to disappoint you and say it was not. I cried, I laughed, it felt very real and Zac Efron, in my opinion, played an EXCELLENT role, and although he may not win an Oscar for this role (but deserves one), I see a bright future for that fella. I'd like to add, no one should be even talking about this film if they have not seen it yet. "This shit is garbage and the 4 stars he gave was generous", ahem, you haven't even seen it so you can't even BEGIN to say how many stars it can and cannot have. And obviously you're interested in it because you must have been searching the movie in order to come across this page about it.

Julie Pineault on Aug 3, 2010


forgot to mention... GREAT soundtrack.

Julie on Aug 3, 2010


is it just me or is this guy have some weird proportions. his legs looks ALOT smaller than his arms. i guess that has nothing to do with the movie though lol. AA

awesome alvin on Aug 5, 2010


Just saw the movie. It is true to Ben Sherwood's "The Life and death of Charlie St. Cloud." Read the book to find out about Charlie's inner struggles. It is a little saccharine at times but overall, a great two hours. Funny that I had just mentioned that Zac is the new Brad Pitt and someone beat me to it in this forum. Go watch the movie. It is a great story.

Eden on Aug 21, 2010


just out of interest, if beastly where in theatres the day charlie st. cloud was released, what do you think would gross more money opening weekend? 'coz the other day i was thinking, since charlie st. cloud opened at no.6, if this would've beat beastly, beastly would've bombed big time! LMFAO!

TJ on Aug 29, 2010


I completely agree with this review...I was so mad after watching this movie. And if you're saying the movie was good, you likely didn't read the book... So please go read the book before you say this movie was AMAZING!! lol To me, it was like, they took 4 TINY parts of the book (just the important ones) and then re-wrote the whole story. It was NOTHING like the book. In fact, to me, they murdered the book! It didn't even start the same as the book...and that is always a bad beginning...for a bad movie... Efron did a good job, as said, he was pretty much the only reason people (who read the book) could sit through this film. I will not watch this movie again, to say the least.

Annie on Nov 8, 2010


absolutely perfect to those who have brothers..

dags on Nov 8, 2010


This movie was a very good movie! No explanation needed. Don't like it; shouldn't be here in the first place!

Who? on Nov 22, 2010


I actually completely disagree with this! I thought the movie was fantastic, even if Zac wasn't in it I think it would still be fantastic. A lot of people loved High School Musical because Zac was in it, though many people liked the book and Zac wasn't in that. I thought this is very clever and bless anyone's heart who looses someone special, like how Charlie was so close to Sam. Zac Efron is a good actor! He may not be as good as Tom Hanks or anyone else but he's going places! He's a very good actor and I think a lot of people would agree with me. He acts like everyone else, Josh Duhmal, Sam Worthington, Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds... They're all the same! No one will ever be as good as Tom Hanks but Zac is pretty good for a kid his age. At parts he made you believe he was Charlie. I think this movie was really good, it was interesting. I'm sorry for you who don't like it. We all love different movies, right? Well I believe both Zac and this movie should win a good award, if not many more awards. Opinions are like butt holes. Everyone has one.

Ruffian on Nov 28, 2010


Anne, if you notice. No movies are like the books. Am I right? They change everything up. That's why it's called a MOVIE. They are NEVER going to be the same as the book. I can tell you right now that the movie, Secretariat, was close to the stallion's life but they changed a lot of things. They do it to make it interesting.

Ruffian on Nov 28, 2010


the movie, was pretty good actually people. If some bunch of idiots like some of u are, hates him soo much, why even bother to comment or even be on this website in the first place? grow up. is it because ur given lack of attention at home or ur just jealous because u just cant watch zac being good at something. and dont hate me if i say this, its kind of my personal opinion, hey, i dislike zac before i watched this movie. he seem and not that good, in HSM. but after this, i really dont think so anymore. he's really good, suprisingly. i agree with june pineault, his acting seems..real. much, much better than miley(have u seen her in the last song?? she shud just stick with hannah montana) agree with annie thou. and twispious, go to hell.xoxo

may on Dec 2, 2010


I finally watched this movie. I couldn't bring myself to do it until now because my brother was killed in a car accident back in February of this year. I completely disagree with the review above. No emotion? I have been numb for 10 months and this film finally made me feel something. It wasn't a particularly good feeling... but it was a feeling nonetheless. I thought the movie was awesome, and I didn't even know there was a book, so I'll probably run out and get that soon, but honestly, I thought it was a great movie. Movies are supposed to make you feel something, and this one is the only one that has recently.

ACE on Dec 8, 2010


Well, all i can say is that i enjoyed the movie... more than anything else... what is important for me is that the message of the story was clearly delivered and that the actors have made their characters come alive... seeing Zac in this movie actually made me think that his on the right path in his career... he needs to do more films like this...for people to discover how talented he is... his far better than not really movie critic but atleast i know how to identify a good movie... and for me this is good! Love it!

peter Eman on Dec 13, 2010


this movie is ridiculous... zac effron just used acting 101 to create dead emotions... theres a difference between staring into the distance and staring into the distance and feeling it and showing it on ure face.... the plot was stupid... no one who has created such a delusion that has been routine for 5 years would break it in 1 week even for a woman.... poor research was done on the psychology of grieving... and the film wasted 3 amazing actors poor choices where made... zac has sum kinda talent but he hasnt made it his own... he needs to forget what he learned whilst doing high school musical and look at actors such as jack nicholson for inspiration

toni on Dec 31, 2010


I loved the movie and thought it was inspiring and a tear jerker. This so-called "reviewer" doesn't know a good movie when he sees one, apparently.

Alwaysreal89 on Jan 12, 2011


Underated movie about a man and his sunken dreams when his younger dies in a car crash. Nuanced understated performance from the usually happy go lucky lead supported with a tight script and cast. Cool songs from Electric Owls, Ramones and Pink Mountaintops supported by a superb melodic score from Rolfe Kent. A magical allegory comparing sailing in the graveyard setting as a metaphor for life and death, dreams and hopes, moving on or going back and the choices we must ultimately make. Ignore main review this is an awesome movie for many reasons. Why do reviewers have to massage their own egos so much. My best of 2010 ... seriously!!

Alan Orton on Jan 17, 2011



Dolfnnsfan on Jan 28, 2011


i actually COMPLETELY disagree.. i read the book of this abotut a year ago, and when i heard there was going to be a movie, i was so happy... then i heard zac efron was going to play charlie (and ive hated him since hsm) but i saw the movie last week, and he totally blew me away! he just needed a real Role,, 🙂

Guest on Mar 17, 2011


what i got from reading this review is that ye wouldnt know a good movie if it came and gave ye a bonk on the head. I think i speak for 95% of the people commenting when i say it was a good movie, dont knock it..

Annie on Mar 17, 2011


Well put Alan, have yet to read the book but the movie was well done and a must see.  I'd give it a 10 but it's all about one's perspective!

Handyandyhome on May 29, 2011


this movie was awesome!!! i loved it! i wish i had seen it in theaters but i couldn't so i just bought the DVD,and it was outstanding! zac efron is not only hot, but a very good actor...

Anonymous on Jul 23, 2011


The movie was superr good. Like fantastic. I didn't get a chance to watch it in theaters but I watched it online. I loved everything about it. This movie really shows strong emotions. In fact honest to god I started crying during the parts with Charlie and Sam. Well you know when he was late for their meeting and  the time when he didn't come because he went to save Tez. Even the last part when he was saying im sorry I had to break our deal. All in All I give it the highest rating possible. In fact I don't understand why so many trashed this movie. It was awesome. I guess this movie is more open to more emotional viewers. As for Zac Efron he was great too. He really should get an award for his talents. I mean he showed perfect emotion as if he was really Charlie St. Cloud. I would love to see him in more movie roles like these. An for something extra he is freakin adorable. I love his eyes and everything about him.

Nour on Nov 8, 2011


realy enjoyed film it followed the story line .

maureen nesbit on Jan 27, 2012


every time i watch the movie i cry when sam die bec im like sam an i think about me and my brother 

kevin on Mar 20, 2012


I could not stop crying! It was a great movie, and zac's acting felt very feel, otherwise, why would a viewer cry so much if the acting felt fake? And I thought the events in this film were very original; I've yet to see a movie like it. Because, yes, you see people haunted by their dead family members ghosts but the differences in this movie make it unique.

Cumber94 on May 28, 2012

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