To Play or Not to Play

April 2, 2010, 12:16 a.m.

When Ronnie Miller (Miley Cyrus) and her brother leave their home in New York to spend the summer with their father in a Southern beach town, angry teenage drama lurks in midair. Still furious three years after her father (Greg Kinnear) left them, Ronnie plays the quintessential rebellious teenager who just about adequately graduates high school and has no plans of going to college. Despite her father’s attempts to reconnect with Ronnie, she insistently pushes him away. But when beach volleyball hunk Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth) comes along, they instantly fall in love and Ronnie also starts to open up to her father.

To Play or Not to PlayGranted, there are no airport chase scenes or the usual romantic dinners, but “The Last Song” still plays on a cliched storyline of boy meets girl and falls in love with her, causing transformative character changes. Nevertheless, the love between Ronnie and Will floats either on a calm body of water or during a stormy night in the sea, based on Ronnie’s mood. In one scene, she has a fit over how many girls Will had been with before her. In another, Ronnie is upset over not being invited to Will’s sister’s wedding. Absurdly romantic and melodramatic, the movie may win the hearts of many young teenage girls (and boys), but Ronnie’s overly excessive fury renders the first half of the movie a displeasurable viewer experience.

Rest assured, though, that Ronnie’s character undergoes a noticeable change in the second half of the movie. When she discovers her father’s sickness, the three years of anger since her parents’ divorce dissolve like the ocean water washing over the sand. While the father-daughter relationship dynamic is noteworthy and sentimental, the rest of the story is dreamy yet infuriating. The simple coming-of-age movie plot may leave you disappointed. However, if your insistent younger sibling or cousin wants to see the “Party in the USA” singer/star Cyrus in her first lead role, you might as well go for amusement. But if you are like many of my friends who, with no hesitation, turned down my offer to see Miley Cyrus’ feature film, then the movie was not made for you. One critic sitting nearby made a brief comment, “This is supposed to be Oscar-worthy?” followed by laughter from some sitting in the back row.

Finally, I conclude by recommending the movie only if you can endure nearly one hour of the 1:47 running time watching teenage drama infused with rage, but, in a theater filled primarily with young teens and some parents, great satisfaction may surface. “The Last Song” is an average teen movie that will end up disappointing those who seek laughter, fun and playful twists in the plot.

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