(PG15) US. Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Ray Liotta
It takes more than arithmetic to describe what’s wrong with Charlie St Cloud, but let’s start with a tally. The setup alone includes a dead brother, an absent father, a dead father, two dead friends, a fleeing mother and a cancer-stricken EMT. All exist simply to teach the title character (Efron) that it’s important not to wallow in grief.
Charlie talks to the dead, you see, although the rules of who, when and precisely how dead are subject to the loose logic of the screenwriters. After his brother (Tahan) dies in a car accident, Charlie promises the brother’s ghost he’ll meet him every day for baseball practice. He gives up a sailing scholarship to Stanford. But the fates – unlike everyone else in this depressing film – have a sense of humour, dropping a limber would-be sailing buddy (Crew) in Charlie’s lap.
You may begin to wonder if you’re hallucinating, too, as Charlie St Cloud turns into a romance so gauzy it makes Ghost look like Ibsen’s Ghosts. How many people must suffer for Charlie’s self-esteem? The answer
is so contrived and shameless it’s hard not to wonder if the movie is a cosmic joke.