Judge Clark Douglas hopes the last song he ever hears isn't performed by Miley Cyrus.
Do you ever really forget your first heartbreak?
"Truth only means something when it's hard to admit! Don't you get that?"
Facts of the Case
Ronnie (Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana) is having a tough time lately. She was recently arrested for shoplifting and her mother (Kelley Preston, The Cat in the Hat) and father (Greg Kinnear, Nurse Betty) recently went through a divorce. She and her brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman, Martian Child) have just arrived at the Georgia coast to spend the summer with their father, which Ronnie is initially unenthusiastic about. However, after getting involved with the hunky Will (Liam Hemsworth, Knowing) and finding some sea turtle eggs, Ronnie slowly but surely starts to smile again.
The characters of The Last Song are introduced in rather broad strokes. When we first meet Ronnie, she's wearing a lot of eyeliner and scowling. She gets to her dad's house, and he attempts to give her a hug. She brushes him off without saying a word. Then Ronnie goes for a walk on the beach, wearing black leather books with a black outfit while everyone else is in colorful swim shorts and bikinis. She stomps off whenever her father and brother sit down to have a meal. All of this is designed to let us know in no uncertain terms that Ronnie is moody, bitter and has a bad attitude.
Later on, Ronnie has a Meet Cute with Will Blakelee, who is as bland as his name makes him sound. She's walking down the beach drinking a milkshake until he bumps into her and she spills milkshake all over herself. "I'm so sorry," Will says. "You look it," Ronnie says. Then she accuses Will of being a creepy guy for hitting on a stranger. However, the film assures us that Will is a good guy shortly thereafter, when Will stops the pesky Marcus (Nick Lashaway, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) from picking on his buddy. Marcus glares at Will and snaps, "You're so butch, always standing up for your friends." Am I the only one who suspects no one in real life has ever actually uttered those words? No matter, they establish Will as a nice guy and Marcus as a jerk.
The film is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, who also co-wrote the screenplay. I know a number of people who count themselves as big fans of Sparks, including a girl was once driven to tears while telling me about how powerfully moving his novels were. One person who seems to have even more regard for the works of Mr. Sparks is Mr. Sparks himself, who in a recent interview declared his writing superior to that of the great Cormac McCarthy. I guess I'm just failing to recognize the genius in his work. I confess to never having read any of his novels, but the films based on those novels are clichéd, tiresome melodramas that only stand apart due to their willingness to push certain emotional buttons awfully hard. The Last Song is no exception. But hey, that's just me. If you tend to like Nicholas Sparks stuff in general, the film will most likely be right up your alley (I cite as evidence the fact that yet another Sparks fan viewed the film with me and proclaimed the movie to be quite good).
It's not really a spoiler to tell you that the film takes a tragic turn as it heads into its third act, considering both the fact that the film was co-written by Nicholas Sparks and considering the tagline of the film. The fact of the matter is that people go to Nicholas Sparks films because they want to be forced to pull out their Kleenexes and have a good cry over a mawkishly sad/touching/beautiful/horrible situation. I've cried during quite a few films, but not so much in films like The Last Song which so blatantly devote their time to throwing harpoons at my tearducts in the hopes of draining them.
The film took a drubbing from critics, largely due to the participation of actress Miley Cyrus. Due to her combination of massive popularity and less-than-considerable acting talent, Miley is a pretty easy target. It's tempting to pick on her just because she's Miley Cyrus, but let's be honest: she isn't that bad. She isn't that good either, but her performance is no better or worse than one would expect for a young actress in a thinly written role like this. At the very least, she manages to provide more charisma than Hemsworth, who is the sort of dull slab of beef that seems all-too-popular in modern romantic comedies.
One odd side note: Will works at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, but lives in Savannah, Georgia (several hours away from Atlanta). Either the filmmakers were hoping we didn't notice or Will has a hell of a commute each day.
The Last Song arrives on Blu-ray with a reasonably respectable 1080p AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer. While not exactly the sort of visual knockout one might hope this good-looking film could have been in hi-def, it gets the job done nicely. The warm, soothing color palette is given a good deal of nuance and depth throughout, and the Savannah locations just look gorgeous. The only area in which the film struggles a bit is in terms of detail, as the imagery can be on the soft side sometimes. The audio is a predictable mix of soothing beach sounds, melancholy acoustic guitar music and angsty pop songs, but it's a strong, rich blend overall.
Supplements on the disc kick off with an audio commentary featuring Julie Anne Robinson and co-producer Jennifer Gibgot that covers the usual collection of production details and behind-the-scenes stories. You also get an alternate opening (3 minutes), some deleted scenes (7 minutes), a Miley Cyrus music video (4 minutes), a featurette on the making of the music video (4 minutes) and a set tour with young actor Bobby Coleman (5 minutes). Bland, lightweight stuff overall. You also get a DVD copy of the film containing the same supplemental features sans the alternate opening and deleted scenes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's always nice to see Greg Kinnear turn up, isn't it? Especially in films like this, where there's little to enjoy aside from the performance of a seasoned pro. It's so interesting to note the manner in which Kinnear can so persuasively play good-hearted warmth and deceitful sleaze without really altering his on-screen persona in any significant way (lest there be any doubt, I mean that as a compliment). The Last Song requires his warm sincerity on a regular basis, which he plays quite nicely. I also liked the brief scene between Kinnear and Preston, which offer an atypical portrait of a divorced couple that still knows how to communicate well and behave in a civilized manner.
Melodramatic, overcooked, and underdeveloped, The Last Song is pretty much everything you'd expect it to be. The Blu-ray is nice enough.
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