April 01, 2010

The Last Song

The Sparks-style chalk outline of Miley Cyrus' career

Grade: C –

Director: Julie Anne Robinson

Starring: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Liam Hemsworth, Bobby Coleman, and Kelly Preston

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

The Last Song, the second Nicholas Sparks’ film in as many months, unfolds much like all those before it. Girl – Ronnie (Miley Cyrus) – meets boy – Will (Liam Hemsworth) – along a Southern shoreline (Georgia subs for Wrightsville Beach, N.C.); their love perseveres against a backdrop of family drama; and, of course, the sound of sniffles will reverberate throughout the theater before the closing credits roll.

In Sparks’ cockeyed alternate universe, Ronnie is a brooding teen who resents her father, Steve (Greg Kinnear), for her parents’ divorce and rebels by barely graduating from high school and intentionally throwing her SAT, yet somehow gets offered admittance to Julliard for piano skills she stopped honing years ago. While spending the summer at her dad’s seaside home with her precocious little brother (Bobby Coleman), Ronnie treads the beach wearing a pout and black leather boots, although her midriff becomes increasingly bare as her summer fling with Will progresses.

Likewise, when Will isn’t working on his pecs or beach volleyball skills, he’s slumming as a grease monkey, volunteering for a local aquarium, and laboring over whether to attend Columbia or Vanderbilt in the fall. Oh, did I mention his parents are millionaires who live on a sprawling, moss-draped plantation?

Repeated near-breakups are interrupted by half-written subplots involving Ronnie and Steve’s daddy-daughter issues, a troubled local girl who frames Ronnie for shoplifting, a nowhere mystery involving a church burning, and the pains taken to save a nest of sea turtle eggs. In other words, it’s a lot of hooey marking time until the de rigueur tear jerking climax.

Although all equally schmaltzy, Sparks’ previous film adaptations have made due thanks to competent casting and direction. Not so here, where it falls on Kinnear to provide the cast’s bona fides. Hemsworth’s purpose seems only to make Cyrus’ agonizing, two-note acting – she principally speaks in 4-5 word phrases – appear passable by comparison. And, director Julie Anne Robinson arrives to her first feature film on the heels of a career spent hopscotching episodic TV gigs.

However, the ultimate blame lies with Sparks, whose infamous reader/audience manipulation has metastasized to the point that his reputation as a simple sentimentalist is slowly being supplanted for that of an emotional sadist. Unfortunately, it is only the audience that suffers. The Last Song is just the same old refrain presented by performers who can’t carry the tune.

Neil Morris

1 comment:

David said...

You'd think Sparks would have a little pride, that he wouldn't keep cranking out such sucky, ripe-for-parody schlock.