By Brian Lafferty
April 2, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--The Last Song is one of those films I call a “Hit and Miss” picture. Movies that fall under this category typically have as many elements that work as those that don’t. One scene may be wonderful, the next may be forgettable. Some characters are great and some are not so desirable. This is basically how The Last Song works. It is not a bad movie but it isn’t great, either.
It’s the beginning of summer. Ronnie Miller (Miley Cyrus) and her younger brother Jonah (Bobby Miller) are dropped off at their father’s (Greg Kinnear, the best actor in the film) house at the beach. Almost immediately there is conflict. Ronnie resents the fact that her parents are divorced. She has the world’s biggest chip on her shoulder; we learn at the beginning that she’s accused of arson, which she denies (of course) and she has had other troubles both legally and socially.
Right away she doesn’t fit in. The girls dislike Ronnie for no other reason than the sake of hating her. She becomes an outcast to everyone else except for one person, Will (Liam Hemsworth). Her relationship with him, as well as its ups and downs, forms the majority of the story.
Ronnie is not the stereotypical rebellious teenager. In fact, Miley Cyrus wisely chooses to underplay her character. However, I saw her performance as a stepping stone. I wasn’t expecting award-winning acting but it could have been better. Even so, despite her one-note sulky performance there was something about her presence and charm in every scene that made me forget it. I just wish it could have been applied to slightly better material than The Last Song.
I liked the romance between Cyrus and Hemsworth. I thought the two had great chemistry together. The best scenes, however, involve the relationship between father and daughter. These scenes are real and touching, especially towards the end. The relationships are fleshed out so well that it made the ending all the more bittersweet.
Much of the attempted humor is too predictable. For one thing, it has the old cliché involving a car stuck in mud with one person driving and the other trying to push. You don’t get any prizes for correctly guessing whether Will gets covered in mud when Ronnie hits the gas. The Meet Cute is another groaner involving a milkshake. I know this is a dramatic film but if you’re going to utilize comedy relief, don’t settle for the basics.
The film is also populated with stock characters brimming with stereotypes. There are the girls who immediately and for no apparent reason hate Ronnie. They frequently cast accusatory stares at her. Their stuck-up attitudes grated on me after a while. Fortunately, they take up little screen time.
As a coming-of-age movie, The Last Song works on that level. It is at times heartwarming, even if it is at times sappy and oozing with saccharine. But it is a very barebones coming-of-age story. I didn’t like it but that does not prevent me from recommending it to some people. If you love these movies, are able to forgive this film's faults, and don’t expect too much, this is highly recommended.
A Walt Disney release. Director: Julie Anne Robinson. Screenplay: Nicholas Sparks and Jeff Van Wie based on the book by Sparks. Original Music: Aaron Zigman. Cinematography: John Lindley. Cast: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Bobby Coleman, Liam Hemsworth, and Kelly Preston. Runtime: 107 minutes. Rated PG.