Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
It shouldn’t raise any eyebrows that Disney pop princess Miley Cyrus, known to young fans, and their parents, as the popular sitcom character Hannah Montana, has chosen this type of formulaic romance to ‘break out’.
The Last Song is the first film with Cyrus headlining that doesn’t have anything to do with Hannah Montana. It also, unfortunately, treads a familiar path, recalling almost every cliché you can find for such a story.
Any description of this film will invariably contain the following terms or their variations: ‘troubled teenager’, ‘estranged father’, ‘coming-of-age’, and ‘falling in love’.
In a nutshell, Cyrus plays a rebellious girl (aren’t they all, at this age, in these movies?) named Veronica – she prefers the edgier nickname of Ronnie – who, along with her younger brother, is forced to spend a summer with a father she hardly knows (Greg Kinnear).
The two butt heads, but predictably come to an understanding by movie’s end. Ronnie starts out bickering with her younger brother also, but predictably, they aren’t as antagonistic as they first appear.
Ronnie meets a good-looking beach-goer named Will (Liam Hemsworth), a tall, muscular hunk who takes a fancy to the black-wearing Ronnie, who’s not at all like the plethora of shallow, entitled girls he’s dated before.
The two butt heads (this is not a typo), but predictably fall for each other, even though his privileged background and snotty parents could become problematic.
Novelist Nicholas Sparks, who conceived the story after Cyrus told Disney bosses that she hoped to act in a film similar to 2002’s A Walk To Remember, also based on a Sparks book, wrote two other big ‘twists’ to help spice up the film’s plot, but neither really surprise nor intrigue.
In terms of story, this film sets up nicely at the start with light moments but avoids any complications when they can be avoided with simplistic answers, be it the resolution of petty conflicts or Ronnie’s rediscovery of her father and her passion for music. (For Cyrus fans: she only sings in one brief scene; she ‘finger-syncs’ at the piano otherwise.)
Every time Ronnie runs back into Will’s arms after he gives her a pat explanation that clears up a misunderstanding, one can’t help feeling a little disappointed by her easy capitulation.
Acting wise, most viewers will appreciate Kinnear’s quiet integrity and versatility as he cuts a tragic, beaten-down figure. And many will enjoy child actor Bobby Coleman’s spirited turn as the cute, spunky younger brother.
The leading pair, however, are not quite up to mark. Australian Hemsworth, whose brother Chris was last seen in Star Trek and recently anointed the star of Marvel’s 2011 Thor film, is passable as Will but his limitations are most glaring in the scene where he tearfully reveals a family secret to Ronnie.
As for Cyrus, who may not be the prettiest young star out there, but who has charm and presence in abundance, this should be a learning experience. Anyone familiar with her Disney work knows she has a knack for comedy, and that she can deliver witty comebacks and ham it up with the best of them.
But her acting range is limited at the moment, and anything more challenging than this standard vehicle, before she develops further, could prove disastrous.
A Walk to Remember helped Mandy Moore emerge from her teen-targeted pop persona, and The Last Song may help audiences see Cyrus differently as well. That is, at least, how the formula is supposed to work.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!"
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