"The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud" should not have been a big screen movie instead it should have been snapped up by a producer of TV movies and turned into a Hallmark movie. That may sound a really stupid thing to say but the basic story of a young man given a second chance but hanging on to the past is ideal as a TV movie but when lavished with a bigger budget and with a star name lead it goes beyond being emotional sweet to excessively saccharine. Basically this movie becomes all about Zac Efron looking handsome, removing his shirt and looking longingly into the distance which I am sure appealed to a young crowd who when this was released swooned over Efron but does little to make the movie work.
Charlie (Zac Efron - 17 Again) and his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) were so close, they sailed together, played ball together and without a father Charlie was like a father to him. But that all changed one night when they were involved in a road incident with a drunk driver with Charlie being saved whilst Sam died. 5 years on from that night and Charlie is still living in the past because he still sees Sam daily, plays ball with him and has basically given up on his life to be able to share a few minutes with the vision of Sam every day. That all changes when Tess (Amanda Crew - Sex Drive), one time a competitor of his, re-enters his life as she plans to compete in a major boat race and Charlie is forced to choose between living his life or clinging on to the past.
In my mind "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud" would have worked so much better as a TV movie and the basic storyline which sees Charlie not only seeing his dead brother but refusing to move on with his life is the perfect story for a sweet afternoon drama. Add to that a romantic subplot and a twist which may catch some people by surprise and in truth I like the story even if the twist was in truth kind of obvious. There is something simply pleasant about this story of dedication and second chances which make for what should be an easy watching experience. Having said that it is riddled with inconsistencies which means you have to switch off from trying to follow any rules and just go with the flow when it comes to Charlie's visions.
But here is the trouble with "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud", it's Zac Efron. Now I have nothing against Zac Efron, he is good at what he does and has shown that he can act but here he is not called upon to act but look handsome, remove his shirt and look longingly into the distance. In fact I would say over three quarters of the movie is dominated by Efron doing this and it become too much as director Burr Steers turns this drama into a photo shoot for Efron. Now it is obvious that "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud" has a target audience in mind and with Efron being soulful the whole time it will have some appeal but for anyone attracted to the movie by the story rather than the star will be disappointed.
It is not only Efron's performance which feels wrong and for what ever reason it appears Augustus Prew has been told to make Charlie's friend Alistair a comical, cheeky chappy which unfortunately ends up annoying. Thankfully Amanda Crew as Tess is much better and whilst ending up a very ordinary character is a welcome change from annoying cheekiness or over indulgent soulful staring.
What this all boils down to is that "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud" will certainly appeal to an audience who love Zac Efron for his looks but beyond that it is a trying experience which for me should have been turned into a TV movie rather than a big budget production.