Film review: Nicholas Sparks' 'The Last Song' is out of tune

Published: Tuesday, March 30 2010 2:44 p.m. MDT

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth star in Nicholas Sparks' manipulative "The Last Song."

Sam Emerson

THE LAST SONG — ★1/2 — Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Liam Hemsworth; rated PG (violence, mild profanity, slurs, vulgarity, brief drugs, nude art); in general release

"The Last Song" is refreshing from one perspective. For a change, it isn't Miley Cyrus who gives the worst performance in one of her movies.

Mind you, that doesn't mean she's matured as an actress, and her performance certainly doesn't make the movie watchable. She's joined by other, similarly incompetent performers here.

And as bad as the film's ensemble is, the performances still pale in comparison to the manipulative writing of Nicholas Sparks. He still can't tell a story without adding in false sentiment and without trying to milk the audience with at least one character tragedy.

This drama was based on an "original" screenplay by Sparks, which he then turned into yet another novel. The cinematic version of the tale is almost laughably maudlin.

Cyrus stars as Veronica Miller, or Ronnie. This teenager and her younger brother, Jonah (Bobby Coleman), have been sent to Georgia to spend the summer with their estranged father, Steve (Greg Kinnear).

For Jonah and his dad, it's a joyful reunion. Ronnie, however, wants nothing to do with such things and wants to keep to herself.

And at first, Ronnie wants nothing to do with Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth), either. That doesn't deter the hunky volleyball player, who seems intent on wooing her.

As with all of Sparks' works, the third act turns "tragic," and all but the most inattentive of audiences will be able to see what's coming.

Also, you can tell Cyrus' character is supposed to be a rebel early on — because of her nearly all-black wardrobe and combat boots. (As Ronnie, Cyrus gives off a quizzical look and purses her lips, as compared to her customary toothy grin.)

Aussie newcomer Hemsworth, the brother of star-in-the-making Chris Hemsworth and Cyrus' current off-screen boyfriend, isn't any better. And Coleman is a hammy irritant.

The one person here who doesn't embarrass himself is Kinnear. But it's hard to see what he saw in this project, aside from a fairly easy paycheck.

"The Last Song" is rated PG and features some brief violent content (fisticuffs and brawling, a mud fight and some fiery mayhem), scattered mild profanity (most of it religiously based), derogatory language and slurs, some mildly suggestive talk and vulgar slang terms, brief drug references (prescription medications), and glimpses of nude artwork (statues). Running time: 107 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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