Film review: Jack Weyland's Charly

Published: Friday, Sept. 27 2002 11:57 a.m. MDT

How movie patrons respond to the feature film version of "Jack Weyland's Charly" may depend on their feelings about the printed-page version of the story.

If, on one hand, they were swept up by the best-selling novel's quaint and old-fashioned romance and touched by its ultimate message (the timelessness of love), this fairly faithful adaptation — in spirit, if not actual content — will probably enchant.

However, those who weren't as taken by the novel — which has been described, and not unfairly, as the LDS equivalent of Erich Segal's "Love Story" — will probably find it a little too manipulative, even maudlin.

The title character is Charlene Riley (Heather Beers), a free-spirited New York art student who's back in her hometown of Salt Lake City for a visit. Her reluctant tour guide is Sam Robertson (Jeremy Elliott), a squeaky-clean, LDS computer-science major.

Their brief "date" winds up lasting longer than one evening. It turns out that non-member Charly is intrigued by Sam's beliefs. So much so that she decides to investigate his church and even winds up falling for him. (He, of course, has already gone ga-ga for this female whirlwind.)

Needless to say, her parents are horrified, as is her fianc back in New York. But there's more than that standing in the way of their romance — she's got a "past," and there's at least one other major storm on the horizon.

Making his feature filmmaking debut, director Adam Thomas Anderegg impresses (the movie is pretty well-paced, though it does lag a bit in the final third). But the story skips around too much — it's unclear how much time has elapsed between certain scenes.

The film's real problem, though, is that the romance between the leads isn't as compelling or as believable as it should be. While Beers does make Charly endearing and appealing, some of her line delivery is stiff.

As for Elliott, he has impressed previously (particularly in "Out of Step"). As the nebbishy Sam, though, his performance lacks subtlety and his "progression" to a less-dorky version of the character isn't convincing.

The supporting cast is solid, though, especially Jackie Winterrose-Fullerup, who plays Charly's supportive grandmother; and Adam Johnson, who co-stars as her New York boyfriend.

"Jack Weyland's Charly" is rated PG for mildly suggestive talk and brief violence (a temper tantrum). Running time: 104 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com