It seems like it’s that time again, time to add another movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel onto the ever-growing list of flicks based on his bestselling books. And this time, the flick comes along with a Disney star.
“The Last Song” tells a story about Ronnie (Miley Cyrus, “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” 2009), a rebellious teenager who visits her father, Steve (Greg Kinnear, “We Were Soldiers,” 2002) over the summer with her younger brother, Jonah (Bobby Coleman, “Must Love Dogs,” 2005).
After the divorce of Ronnie’s mother and father a few years back, Ronnie refuses to keep in touch with her dad. But following an arrangement by her parents, she is forced to spend the summer with him in North Carolina. Having been absent from Ronnie’s life since the divorce, Steve hopes to salvage their relationship through music.
Despite being completely opposed to spending her summer away from her home in New York City, things take a positive turn for Ronnie when she meets Will (Liam Hemsworth, “Knowing,” 2009), who she falls in love with.
Ronnie’s budding romance puts her in a better mood about her vacation and helps her amend her relationship with Steve. She begins opening up and trying to reconnect with her dad through music. However, an unforeseen circumstance causes the teenager’s summer to take a completely different route.
Like most novel-based films, this one doesn’t quite live up to the emotional experiences that Sparks is able to convey in the book. The events seem to play out somewhat rushed, but this is also the case with most films based on novels. The movie, however, does manage to follow the major sequence of events as organized in the novel, though some minor details are altered.
The trailer for “The Last Song” is misleading to a degree, because it doesn’t even hint about one of the more significant aspects of the plot. From the trailer, audiences can reasonably assume that “The Last Song” is generally about a summer fling between two teenagers. Of course, in addition to Cyrus being the lead, the fling highlighted in the trailer is what will probably encourage people to watch the film. But the relationship between Ronnie and Will isn’t necessarily the center of the story.
Chemistry between Cyrus and Hemsworth will undoubtedly appeal to teenagers who enjoy watching lovers that do little things to display affection for each other. Such displays in the film include Will engraving his and Ronnie’s initials on a tree, and Will writing the word “forever” with a Sharpie on Ronnie’s sneaker.
The moments that are meant to build the relationship between the two teenagers appear to be ones where Cyrus and Hemsworth simply flirt around. As a result, the moments fail to be meaningful and come off hurried and shallow.
The second half of the movie plunges into a pool of what feels like unending drama, which makes it a bit of a drag to sit through.
From the first line Cyrus delivers in the film, it is evident that the role of Ronnie is too big for her to fill. But, she does deserve some kudos for trying, given that most of her acting experience has been as Hannah Montana on the popular Disney show.
Cyrus doesn’t effectively portray the rebellious teenager in Sparks’ novel. All she does to act the role of rebellious Ronnie is raise her voice or speak monotonously when she disrespects her parents, and scrunch her eyebrows to look mad or irritated. She also pouts a lot, which makes it seem as though she doesn’t know what facial expression to carry.
Overall, it seems like the Disney star tries too hard to be that teenage rebel and does not play the character consistently throughout.
On the other hand, Coleman delivers well as Ronnie’s enthusiastic 10-year-old brother. He delivers his role in the way the character is depicted in the novel and brings a comic relief to the film that helps make it more bearable to sit through. In the dramatic moments he is involved in, Coleman also does quite well. His emotional portrayals are the only ones that aren’t aggravating to watch.
The tears audiences will shed won’t be attributable to any spectacular performances, because there aren’t any, but rather because the events that touch Ronnie’s life are ones that many will be able to relate to.
In spite of the mediocre drama, the performances that fall short, and that this wasn’t one of Sparks’ best story lines, the screenplay is well written. It also incorporates some nice dialogue that helps tremendously in keeping the story tolerable.
“The Last Song” was directed by Julie Anne Robinson.
Runtime is 107 minutes. It is rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, sensuality and mild language.
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.