Movie Review: The Last Song (PG)

last song

A Snore of a Song

By Roxana Hadadi

The funniest thing about “The Last Song,” the film version of yet another novel by Nicholas Sparks, is the suggestion that Miley Cyrus has ever read “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. And the worst thing about “The Last Song” is, well, Cyrus herself.

In her first dramatic role, Cyrus – of the Disney show “Hannah Montana,” which ends this summer, and known for her affinity for short-shorts and older boyfriends, including Liam Hemsworth, her costar in this film – is practically unbearable, veering between emotions without any kind of subtlety. She’s angry, now she’s sad. She’s sad, then back to angry. Granted, this is a novel by Sparks, who has written other successful novels-turned-movies like “A Walk to Remember,” “The Notebook” and “Dear John,” so there aren’t that many other emotions at play here. But while everyone else in the film, including Hemsworth, Greg Kinnear and the young Bobby Coleman, manages their roles with some sense of restraint, Cyrus is a whirlwind of amateurism.

It also doesn’t help that “The Last Song” seems like Sparks just completely ran out of original thought. Most of his books deal with the same plot points – unexpected tragedy or death, rapid romances, unjust loss – and it’s almost like he tore some pages out of “The Notebook,” tore a few others out of “Dear John” and called it good. While “The Last Song” isn’t as sexual as those other two films (no trysts against the wall or on the floor here), it’s pretty predictable, with a relationship between people of two different classes, a sick relative and a misunderstanding that could derail true love. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, the film begins with a fiery bang, as firefighters pull a man out of a burning church, which Kim (Kelly Preston)explains to her children, recent high-school graduate Ronnie (Cyrus) and the younger, elementary-school age Jonah (Coleman) as being a cornerstone of the community before it got so damaged in the accident. (The cause of the fire will be important later.) She’s driving Ronnie and Jonah down from New York City and leaving them for the summer in Tybee Island, Ga., where their father, Steve (Kinnear) has relocated after he and Kim divorced a few years ago. Though Jonah is excited for the visit, volunteering to help his father create a stained-glass window for the church and hoping to spend as much time with him as possible, Ronnie’s just not that excited.

Instead, the combat boot-wearing, vaguely Goth teenager is rude and uninterested; refusing to spend time with Steve, she combs the beach, drawing stares from the tanning locals. And when she bumps into the volleyball-playing, absurdly handsome Will (Hemsworth) who causes her milkshake to spill all over her clothes, she’s about had it with Southern hospitality. Relief comes in the form of fellow punk Blaze (Carly Chaikin), who lets Ronnie hang out with her and her boyfriend, Marcus (Nick Lashaway), but things get bad again after Marcus hits on Ronnie in front of his girlfriend. Though Ronnie storms out, Blaze wrongly believes the feelings were mutual, and secretly decides to do something to get back at her.

But Ronnie has more important things to do then worry about Blaze: She’s determined not to listen to her former concert-pianist father play piano (though she’s a musical genius whom Juilliard has been watching for years) because she stopped playing after her parents divorced, and she keeps fending off Will’s advances, despite his numerous attempts to get her on a date. She only begins to see a different side of him when he comes to help her guard a loggerhead sea turtle nest she found outside her father’s house, and she learns that his volunteering at the local aquarium and other jobs and activities hint at a deeper personality than his popularity would initially suggest. In fact, she puts aside “Anna Karenina,” her favorite book, to get to know him better. (If you giggle at the idea of Cyrus reading Tolstoy, you’re not alone.)

So of course, they fall in love. And of course, something devastating pulls them apart. Will they end up together? Well, what do you think?

Overall, the film would be far better with someone that isn’t Cyrus in the lead role. Hemsworth, who does his best Channing Tatum impression throughout the movie, is absurdly charming; his muscles and dashing grin will certainly plaster him on many a tween’s bedroom wall. And Kinnear oozes sentimentality, whether he’s encouraging Ronnie to begin playing again or supporting her relationship with Will. His character development is sometimes cheesy, like a scene where he asks Jonah if his smile is, as Ronnie suggests, “creepy,” but he generally manages to keep the role from becoming too tacky.

If only the same could be said for Cyrus: Throughout the film, she seems to think melodrama is the only way to go, so every line and scene seems overacted. From fighting with her father to falling in love with Will, it just doesn’t seem believable. And neither, for that matter, is Will’s wooing of her: He and Ronnie become enamored in only one day, a laughable development compared to the two weeks it took in “Dear John” and the summer it took in “The Notebook.” The relationship itself seems more real (and it should, as Hemsworth and Cyrus actually began dating during filming), but the steps that lead up to it – not so much.

Nevertheless, if your child is a rampant Cyrus fan that absolutely must see the singer/actress finally grow up from “Hannah Montana,” there isn’t much here that’s completely objectionable. There’s some physical violence (like a punch-out between Will and Marcus), and other emotionally wrenching scenes (such as Blaze’s and Marcus’s abusive relationship and when Ronnie learns someone close to her is seriously ill), but teenagers, and more mature tweens, should be able to handle it. At least, if they can stomach it.


Roxana Hadadi last reviewed “Hot Tub Time Machine.”


last song