In the past, Miley Cyrus made people cry by her mere presence. At the height of her Hannah Montana fame a couple years ago, she had that power over young fans just by walking into a room much like the Beatles, Elvis Presley and New Kids on the Block before her. Now she’s trying to get us to shed a tear for real with Julie Anne Robinson’s The Last Song, the latest in a growing number of weepy films based on Nicholas Sparks novels that don’t come anywhere close to The Notebook.
Cyrus plays Ronnie, a teenage girl who’s ticked off at her father (Greg Kinnear) who walked out on her family. Gosh, I haven’t heard that one before. She pouts and shrugs when she’s forced to go visit him for the summer. But then a funny thing happens. She meets a boy (Liam Hemsworth) and discovers her dad’s not so bad after all. There’s a little more to it than that, but to boil it down, the surface story isn’t exactly the most interesting. Most of the subplots aren’t either, but there are a couple of nuggets lurking about.
I couldn’t help but get the sense that The Last Song was driven by the idea of distancing Ms. Cyrus away from the other super-popular, squeaky-clean role that she’s famous for. She’s given an edge but it’s a tough sell. Part of this feeling is also for large focus placed on the romance angle. It’s probably the least interesting of the many subjects tackled by the script. There’s nothing new to add to it. Opposites attract, people don’t understand and attempt to drive them apart, cheesy pop songs ensue. I’ll take John Cusack and his boom box over this generic romance with turtle eggs, thank you very much.
Much more interesting was the story of Ronnie and her family. Despite the fact that her “rebellion” would have been written off by most as little worse than a mood, there’s a lot of tension between her and her father. The best parts of the film are those that convey the awkwardness and sorrow about the absence that comes with her father being so far away. It’s the exact opposite of the dominating romance stuff that I could have done largely without.
When they do make their appearances, much of the film’s raw emotions are undermined by the overbearing score. The best movie music is the kind you find yourself humming along to but still blend seamlessly into the rest of the picture. Unfortunately Aaron Zigman’s score undermines the big moments, dictating exactly what to feel and when. This isn’t uncommon, but it doesn’t try to hide. It takes over the words and the visuals.
The Last Song has a way of capturing emotions – sometimes. It can be tender and raw but it also, at times, comes across like a Cadillac impersonation of an old After School Special. It’s frustrating. Parts of the movie I really appreciate, but the generic romance and distractions severely hamper the overall appeal.
The Last Song Blu-ray Review
The Blu-ray release of The Last Song comes as a combo pack that also includes the DVD. The film is shown with a beautiful 1080p high definition print that captures the beauty of the American South. The main audio track is in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. Bonus features include a commentary track with director Julie Anne Robinson and co-producer Jennifer Gibgot, a behind-the-scenes set tour with young co-star Bobby Coleman, an alternate opening sequence, deleted scenes and not only the music video for “When I Look At You” by Miley Cyrus, but a making-of featurette for the video.
The Last Song Gallery