The Last SongBy Karen Wilson
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, some violence, sensuality and mild language
Release Date: March 31, 2010
Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Plot Synopsis: Ronnie and her younger brother Jonah are staying with their father, Steve, for the summer at his house on the beach. A petulant teenager who barely finished high school but is a gifted musician, Ronnie is less than thrilled to be living with her Dad. But a burgeoning relationship with a local boy named Will helps Ronnie to reconnect with her family as the two teenagers fall in love. Unfortunately the summer takes a tragic turn when Steve's cancer gets out of control and Ronnie stays by his side as he dies.
Sex/Nudity: Ronnie hangs out with two teenagers on the boardwalk, Blaze and Marcus, and Marcus tries to kiss Ronnie even though Blaze is his girlfriend. Will keeps asking Ronnie out until she says yes. Ronnie and Will kiss numerous times on the beach, in the ocean, in a tree while carving their initials into the bark, just to name a few.
Violence/Gore: A man is dragged unconscious from a burning church. Will and Marcus fight at Will's sister's wedding. Steve's cancer gets worse and he collapses on the beach. Ronnie cares for her father, who gets quite gaunt and sickly looking, until he dies.
Profanity: Ronnie calls a mean girl a "bitch."
Which Kids Will Like It? Teens who loved Miley Cyrus's Hannah Montana as a tween will be pleased to watch her in a more grown up role. Everyone else will find the movie saccharine and ridiculous.
Will Parents Like It? Even adults who like the occasional weepy melodrama will probably find the movie's unlikely plot and phoned in performances tiring.
Kaboose Review: Best-selling author Nicholas Sparks and pop star Miley Cyrus are a combination made in blockbuster heaven. Both have built-in, die-hard audiences of romance fans and teen girls, respectively. In fact, the story goes that Cyrus was such a fan of the movies based on Sparks's books like The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Message in a Bottle, that she asked to be involved in his next project. Sparks then wrote The Last Song for Cyrus -- even getting her input on the character's name and tailoring it to her musical abilities. Unfortunately, their collaboration feels flat and uninspired. Sparks's story isn't as romantic as it could be and Cyrus's performance isn't as charming as she can be. Both are just going through the motions.
After rising to international fame as a pre-teen with her Disney TV program "Hannah Montana," Cyrus is clearly ready to show a more sophisticated, adult side. But this downer story doesn't display any of Cyrus's acting range. Unlike her bubbly persona on television, Cyrus's character Ronnie Miller is all about teenage petulance. Sent with her precocious younger brother to live with her estranged father for the summer, all Ronnie does is growl and glower at everyone and stomps around and sasses her father. But when she begins to develop a friendship with local boy Will Blakelee, her attitude does a 180. Now she can let her father in emotionally and begin to play the piano again. This transformation is ridiculous and unrealistic, just like the movie's assertion that Cyrus's passable piano playing is that of a Julliard-accepted young genius.
What made Cyrus so compelling on TV and in her Hannah Montana movie was her goofiness and playfulness. This character doesn't have any of that natural joie de vivre, Ronnie takes herself much too seriously for silliness. Cyrus and Liam Hernsworth, the young Australian actor who plays Will, have some sweet scenes together, like when he takes her scuba diving in the aquarium where he volunteers or when he writes "forever" on her sneaker, but much of their romance comes off as contrived. Rather than cooing "aww" at their young love blossoming, the audience around me audibly groaned throughout the movie.
Cyrus has a lot of natural charisma that's squandered in this predictable movie. When her father gets sick with cancer, Steve (Greg Kinnea) and Jonah (Bobby Coleman) each have their requisite breakdown scene but it's hard to muster any emotions in response because they're so clichéd. These are scenes that Sparks could have written in his sleep, and maybe did. When Ronnie gives the eulogy at her father's funeral she greets a sunbeam that comes in from the stain-glass window her brother built with "Hi, Daddy." Even the sappiest moviegoer would have to snicker at that.
Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson
Cast: Miley Cyrus (Ronnie Miller), Greg Kinnear (Steve Miller), Bobby Coleman (Jonah Miller), Liam Hernsworth (Will Blakelee), Kelly Preston (Kim), Carly Chaikin (Blaze), Nick Lashaway (Marcus), Melissa Ordway (Ashley)
Karen Wilson is a freelance writer living in New York City.