THE LAST SONG
**1/2 (out of 5)
March 30, 2010
Miley Cyrus as RONNIE MILLER
Greg Kinnear as STEVE MILLER
Bobby Coleman as JONAH MILLER
Liam Hemsworth as WILL BLAKELEE
Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Now that Miley Cyrus is looking at the end of her run as Hannah Montana on the insanely popular Disney Channel original series – and with her taking some pot shots at the character in the press, saying she’ll be ready to shed the blond-wigged pop star label – she is trying to expand her horizons and make that always awkward transition from child star to grown-up actress.
It’s actually not a bad move for her, to star in “The Last Song.” In fact, it’s quite brilliant. The movie, which lives safely in PG territory, is balanced with the grown-up themes by coming from the mind of Nicholas Sparks, who gave us such stories as “The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember,” “Night in Rodanthe” and “Dear John.”
This movie allows Cyrus to play the troubled teen without the baggage most roles require. It also secures an audience with the legions of girls who were tweens when “Hannah Montana” started its run but are looking for more mature romances.
In the film, Cyrus plays seventeen-year-old Ronnie, who moves to Georgia to live with her father for the summer. Ronnie is in full-on rebellion mode, recovering from a shoplifting arrest back home and still reeling from her parents’ break-up. Soon, she meets the young and handsome Will (Liam Hemsworth), who has some secrets of his own. They fall for each other and begin a tenuous relationship that just might end when the summer does.
Just because I’m not a fan of Nicholas Sparks isn’t going to stop me from recommending “The Last Song” to its target audience. Aside from the marketing looking like a bizarre hybrid of “Dear John” and “Flicka,” the movie actually achieves what it sets out to do… excite Nicholas Sparks fans who love mildly forbidden summer romances set against the backdrop of the South with a depressing dose of human tragedy in the mix.
For a film like this, which had me rolling my eyes at almost every turn, I use the audience around me as a gauge. I also know some folks who read the book and can’t wait to see the film. Ultimately, this is for whom the movie is made. The ladies in the screening I attended were weeping profusely throughout the film and clung to its every word. So, like the films in “The Twilight Saga,” it may not be my choice, but it reaches its intended audience.
I’ll give Cyrus credit for sustaining a meaty role like this one. She’s not a great actor, which is what happens when you spend more than three years playing a version of yourself on TV, but she’s not terrible either. Give her a few more films, and she might be able to develop some acting chops. And we don’t have her breaking into song every few minutes, which helps differentiate her from her TV persona.
The real acting coup in this movie is Greg Kinnear, who plays Ronnie’s dad. He does a lot with a relatively small role. And while things get a little cheesy as the story plays out, it’s one of Kinnear’s finer performances over the past few year.
As far as Nicholas Sparks movies go, “The Last Song” isn’t the best. It has some rough moments where the story seems rushed, random or slightly out of place. But if you’re a teenage girl hanging on the romance elements and family drama of the flick, you’ll gladly overlook that.