From the bright lights and big ears of the Disney hit
factory came a young man set for great commercial success. His impossibly
perfect face bore down from thousands of girl’s bedroom walls and small boys
wore his Wild Cats basketball strip. How on earth do you escape that?
After the High School Musical franchise ran its path and
Efron began to experience facial hair and the joys of adolescence it became
clear that, unlike other Disney spawn, this star still had a lot more to give.
His choices in film since then have been quite wise, turning down a Footloose
remake in favour of Big style comedy 17 Again and period piece Me and Orson
So, when news reached the sites of a centre role in a
somewhat morbid picture it came with baited breath as to how this teen dream
would hold his own. Set in the seaside town of Charlie’s brother Sam is killed
in a car crash while his big brother survives must go on to face a life of
loss. That is unless you can see dead people. Not quite the wretched vomiting
vision of Shyamalan here but a rosy cheeked intact boy, who meets Charlie every
day at sunset to practice baseball, a promise they had made pre-crash.
story is bleak; aside from a bit of catch with his dead brother‘s life comes
to a stand still, passing up a sailing scholarship to work in the grave yard
where Sam’s buried and gaze out to sea for extended periods of time. But as
long as Efron refuses to compromise his appearance whatsoever for the role it
loses all believability. What should be a character gaunt and complicated is
clean shaven and buff with offensively neat hair. The result seems like a
series of commercial snap shots put into motion, from the brothers laughing
toothily as they engage in an all American past time to Efron scaling a rock in
a storm, dripping wet and for some reason shirtless. It’s difficult to pull of
this sort of dead loved one brought to life story without being cheesy but it’s
doable (maybe more Truly Madly Deeply than Ghost.) And he’s got the capability
there; had it not been for his unsettling good looks Efron does a decent stab
at being unhinged. Essentially however this movie is the equivalent of watching
Justin Beiber playing a child of war, simply unbelievable.
The support cast make a tiny appearance, tiny spots of
Ray Liotta and Kim Basinger and Sam played by Charlie Tahan is
exactly what was needed for the role, nothing more nothing less. The most notable
interest is Brit rising talent Augustus Prew who is quite delightful given he
was probably only given the part of best friend because he sounds a bit like
Russell Brand. The story as it so often does changes with a girl and as Charlie
struggles to make it in time for his daily ball sessions it become clear he
will have to make choice between the moving forward or staying still. A
suitable coming of age piece then for this young actor, although it seems, like
Charlie he draws out wanting the best of both worlds for as long as he possibly
can, and, like Charlie, he will have to make a choice sooner or later. It’s not
possible to move forward into a career of sincere acting without sacrificing a
bit of that pin up idolism.
It would be difficult to make this film for a commercial
audience without someone like Efron cast in the forefront and if that’s the
main purpose for this adaptation so be it, fans of this shiny young man will
lap it up.