Starring: Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Greg Kinnear
Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson (debut)
Written by: Nicholas Sparks (debut) and Jeff Van Wie (debut)
Adapting his novel into a screenplay for the first time since his stories began hitting the big screen in 1999 (“Message in a Bottle”), author Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook,” “Dear John”) quickly loses handle of his newest tearjerker “The Last Song” from the start.
Written specifically for teenage music and TV idol Miley Cyrus (“Hannah Montana: The Movie”), the role proves to be far too much for someone with so little feature film experience to explore. Aside from the unmotivated script and direction, it is Cyrus’s shockingly inept performance that makes “The Last Song” so very dissonant. Facetiously speaking: Those voters from the MTV Movie Awards aren’t going to be knocking on her door for this one.
In “Song,” Cyrus takes a dramatic turn for the worst as Ronnie Miller, an unhappy teenage piano virtuoso who is still hurting from her parents divorce. Sent with her little brother (Bobby Coleman) to spend the summer with their estranged father (Greg Kinnear) at his beachside home, Ronnie is not about to meet her dad halfway and try to make the best of an uncomfortable situation.
Uninterested in playing the piano anymore (she stopped on the day her father left the house; how very symbolic) or following her dream to enroll at Julliard, Ronnie would much rather be a sulking teenager with nothing to live for. Cyrus’s self-pity parade becomes more and more unrealistic with every pouty moment she musters.
When she finally meets the man of her dreams, Sparks’s half-hearted efforts plop into a series of formulaic plot devices and corny montages fit for a Disney TV show. As Ronnie and her summer fling spend more time with one another, unnecessary and underwritten secondary storylines are tossed in without much thought. One includes Ronnie taking an interest in sea turtles. Another has her looking out for a girl she meets who is in a dysfunctional relationship.
Waiting in the wings is Kinnear, who is wasted as a father hoping to reconnect with his daughter. Instead, his character is misplaced until Sparks need a tragic story to fall back on and to complete his relationship melodrama. He does the same in every one of his stories, but in “Song” it feels even more insincere than ever before.
If young girls want nothing more than an unoriginal and extremely silly summer romance, Sparks has spun tween gold. This bland story, however, has been told so many times before and with less giddiness. Most importantly, those same movies are done without Cyrus, who makes fellow songstress Taylor Swift’s laughable performance in “Valentine’s Day” earlier this year look Oscar worthy.