Newest Sparks adaptation fails to ignite

Arts & Entertainment/Film and TV by

Starring Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, and Liam Hemsworth, The Last Song is a too heavy on subplots and a too light on actual content.

The casting directors unearthed some hidden gems in supporting actors Bobby Coleman and Carly Chaikin. Coleman plays Cyrus’ younger brother and warmed my cold black heart in ways that only a small child can, especially when sharing the screen with his terminally ill father (Kinnear). Chaikin plays Cyrus’ seemingly badass but really misunderstood friend Blaze. Lame nicknames aside, she definitely gives a commendable performance as she struggles with both an abusive boyfriend and a rocky home life. As you can see, the sub-plots are pretty heavy for Cyrus’s 10-year-old fan base.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film, however, is that it does not feature any Miley Cyrus songs. There is no moment in the film where Cyrus awkwardly makes the revelation that “life’s a climb” before breaking into a radio-friendly power ballad. Believing that Cyrus’s character happened to be a Juilliard-accepted pianist induced eye-rolling on my part, but because the score was neither composed nor sung by her, it turned out okay.

The film features Cyrus as rebellious teen Veronica “Ronnie” Miller, a New York City shoplifter shipped back to her father’s beach house in Georgia for what she soon realizes will be their final summer together. Still holding a grudge after her parents’ divorce, Ronnie initially refuses to pay attention to her father, instead preferring to spend time with Blaze and her band of alcoholic misfits. Her father and younger brother Jonah, however, begin to find common ground as they work together to rebuild a stained-glass window for the town’s recently (and mysteriously) torched church.

Once Ronnie meets Southern heir to an ambiguous-but-impressive-fortune, Will Blakelee (Hemsworth), her distaste for the small Georgia town and her contempt for her father quickly dissipate. And making this already played-out narrative even worse is that Hemsworth suffers from what I like to call Channing Tatum Syndrome – rock-hard abs and no acting talent whatsoever.

As their romance quickly trots along they find themselves faced with the clichéd combination of Nicholas Sparks’ roadblocks: disapproving parents (The Notebook), an incident of attempted arson/murder/other indictable offense (A Walk to Remember), and an ailing father (Dear John). And while The Last Song is by no means the worst of the bunch, the film fails to live up to Sparks’ shining beacon of sappiness, The Notebook. Cyrus does not have the acting chops to keep up with the ensemble cast and while Coleman and Chaikin do their best, they cannot carry the convoluted narrative on their own. The movie simply tries to do too much in an hour and a half – the fatal flaw that most Sparks films fall victim to. If the recent plethora of sub-par Sparks’ penned tear-jerkers have taught us nothing else, it’s that without the white-hot chemistry of McAdams and Gosling, his overdone love-tragedy combination will likely only blunder along to the closing credits.