- Rated: PG for thematic material, some violence, sensuality and mild language.
- Runtime: 107 min
Nicholas Sparks can usually turn out some decent tearjerker screenplays, like The Notebook or Nights in Rodanthe. The Last Song is not one of his more innovative pieces, and coupled with poor acting and overdone direction, you’re left with a laughable attempt at a teen romance.
Miley Cyrus plays Ronnie Miller, an angsty and sassy teen who’s been getting in trouble in New York. Her mother decides to ship her and her little brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) to stay with their dad for the summer. The dad (Greg Kinnear), Steve, does pretty well for himself and lives directly on the beach on Tybee Island. Now, Ronnie isn’t too fond of dear old dad ever since he and her mom split up when she was younger. Mom (Kelly Preston) and Jonah have long been over it; both have a pretty good relationship with Steve. But Ronnie’s still mad. It’s pretty apparent since Cyrus snarls almost all the time, and Ronnie’s constantly talking back and being bitchy with Dad.
Ronnie meets the boy of her dreams, though she finds him repelling at first. You see, she’s trying to be the cynical and sarcastic bad girl, and Will (Liam Hemsworth) is the preppy jock type. Actually, let me rephrase that. Will is the most amazing male teenager to walk the Earth. He plays beach volleyball like a pro, is a mechanic, works for an aquarium, can scuba dive, is a scholar, a survivalist, a protector of baby sea turtles, a master of fighting, rich, good looking, and has enough discernment to see Ronnie as more interesting than the blond hottie that’s chasing him. Once she figures out he’s perfect, we are given an extremely typical teen romance montage. It’s the usual practice to have a montage or two in a movie to show the passing of time. The Last Song takes the use of montages to a new extreme…I counted at least 8 montages in this whole movie! I’m giving it a little leeway for any error on my part; I actually counted about 10. After the first three montages I started keeping a tally. It was like Sparks and co-writer Jeff Van Wie just couldn’t figure out how to get good dialog into his screenplay.
Ronnie starts warming up to her dad, and he tries to connect with her on the one thing they have in common: music. They both play piano, and apparently she’s a child prodigy. She’s so amazing that Julliard offers her a scholarship even though she hasn’t played since her dad left when she was little. Like in all of Sparks’ screenplays, just when things are looking up, we are introduced to a weepy but uplifting ending that takes the title a little too literally. I use the word “weepy” loosely, since there were very few tears shed at the screening. In fact, the level of believability is painfully low through out the entire movie.
There were so many details that were so overdone in order to convey a realistic look, that it all comes off as just plain cheesy. Steve’s house looks like something straight out of a Shabby Chic magazine. Ronnie and Will’s first kiss happens with the ocean sparkling in the background. Director Julie Ann Robinson took such pains to convince us that the movie is cast on Tybee Island that a hint of true authenticity would have given The Last Song just the slightest breath of fresh air. But no, everything about it is completely lackluster and generic: the plot; the scenery; characters; the timing of Miley singing her new single and the way it’s incorporated into this flick.
- Will’s older brother died in a car wreck when he and Will were goofing around in the back seat. They were playing ‘mercy.’ He…played ‘mercy’…to death!
- Will gets outed that he used to date a lot of girls before he met Ronnie. His saving grace is telling her he was a man-whore because when his bro died, he was just trying to feel something. Aw, isn’t that endearing?
- Dad and Jonah make a stained glass window for the local church. Jonah takes over and finishes it all by himself. Who’s the child prodigy now, Ronnie? It was a masterpiece done by a 10 year old.
- When Ronnie plays “the last song,” it’s supposed to be a tear-jerking moment. Instead it’s over the top with a slow-circling camera angle and the cheesiest glow through the little brother’s masterfully done window.
- Cyrus gives it all she has as an actress. Unfortunately the poor thing only has a range of 5 facial expressions: snarl, smirk, smile, pout, and dead-face. Really, the only actor that did the best with the script as he could was Kinnear.
The Last Song follows every generic teen romance movie pattern to a tee. There’s nothing original or outstanding about it. Even Cyrus’ single isn’t that great, and definitely isn’t enough to warrant the price of a ticket or your precious time. As hard as Touchstone (an offshoot of Disney) and Robinson tried, they just couldn’t get this one to work. I’ll predict that it will unfortunately do fairly well at the box office, considering: 1) It’s by the guy who wrote The Notebook, and 2) It’s got every teenybopper’s favorite Disney superstar in it. If you really feel like you just have to see it, do yourself a favor and rent it from Redbox.
I give The Last Song 2 ‘Deaths by Mercy’ out of 5.