A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this affecting drama starring High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron tackles themes that may be too heavy for his legions of tween fans. His character is tortured with survivor's guilt over the death of his younger brother, which happens in a terrible car accident (some blood is shown). While there are other intense scenes of despair and sadness, there’s also hope and a strong message about leaving tragedy behind in favor of joy. Expect some swearing (including "s--t"), the suggestion of underage drinking (though none is shown), and some kissing and discussion of "getting laid."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is a great sailor -- so much so that he’s been offered a scholarship at Stanford. But he’s an even better brother. He adores his 11-year-old sibling, Sam (Charlie Tahan), a Red Sox fan with a quick wit and a barrel of admiration for Charlie. And since their father is long gone and their mother (Kim Basinger) is busy pulling double shifts at work to support them, Charlie’s happy to take care of Sam. But on the way to a friend’s house one night, a drunk driver slams into their car, leaving Sam dead and Charlie bereft. The only way to manage the grief, it seems, is for Charlie to keep his pledge to Sam to spend an hour playing catch every day after work, even if that means putting his life on hold. Or is it?
Is it any good?
Make no mistake: CHARLIE ST. CLOUD aspires to be a tearjerker. As such, it commits a few sins that most tearjerkers do, including milking its tragic setups and hinting at their arrival a little too heavily. It also shamelessly taps into Efron’s pretty boy status; watch as the camera lingers on his worked-out chest and biceps when he removes his shirt in a pivotal scene near the end. Nevertheless, the movie is surprisingly poignant -- and for that, there’s Efron to thank. This heartthrob can act. He’s especially disarming paired with Charlie Tahan, who plays Sam. The film does an excellent job of establishing their rapport immediately; in fact, they’re so believable as brothers that when Sam dies and Charlie suffers plaintively, it feels like a punch to the gut.
Unfortunately, Efron and his love interest, played by Amanda Crew, don’t have much chemistry. And, as Charlie and Sam's mom, Basinger disappears too quickly and completely after an interesting cameo. Despite this, and a somewhat fuzzy spin on the afterlife, Charlie St. Cloud manages to move. It may even make you cry.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what audience the movie is intended to appeal to. Is it meant for Efron's younger fans? Do stars who are popular with younger kids have an obligation to make media that's appropriate for them?
What role does alcohol play in the movie's central tragedy? What are the real-life consequences of drinking?
Why is Charlie consumed by guilt? Can you keep the memory of a deceased loved one alive without getting lost in death? How does the movie handle this topic?
Do you believe in second chances? Why?
- In theaters: July 30, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: November 9, 2010
- Cast: Amanda Crew, Kim Basinger, Zac Efron
- Director: Burr Steers
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality