Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, and Bobby Coleman star in this PG-rated drama. Cyrus takes the lead, Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Miller, the estranged daughter of Steve Miller, played by Greg Kinnear. Ronnie and her brother Jonah, played by Bobby Coleman, stays with Steve at his beach house for the summer after being dropped off by their mom Kim, played by Kelly Preston.
Ronnie roams the town to get away from her dad and predictably meets several locals including Galadriel, played by Carly Chaikin, the indifferent Marcus, played Nick Lashaway, and Will Blakelee, played by Liam Hemsworth, who eventually gets to spend the most time with Ronnie (a.k.a. ‘Milkshake Girl’) as the likely summer romance ensues.
Circumstances around a church fire, Will’s past dates, namely Ashley, played by Melissa Ordway, and Ronnie’s considerable, but neglected, musical talents also factor into the predictable, yet softly satisfying drama. Audiences know what they are getting into with the plot full of music montages and wistful character views from the beachside. Kate Vernon and Nick Searcy could have taken the film in a new direction as Will’s rich parents, but filmmakers stick with the main cast’s strengths. Cyrus and Hemsworth make an appealing couple while Kinnear provides his considerable charm – exactly the elements the lukewarm story demands.
Pleasantville cinematographer John Lindley makes everyone look good, which singlehandedly warrants the Blu-ray treatment. His visual canvas includes Georgia exclusive locations, especially Tybee Island. Set designer James Edward Ferrell Jr. and art director Scott Meehan create appealing sets that cover the interior sequences with authentically detailed surroundings.
Veteran television director Julie Anne Robinson makes her feature film debut as Sparks co-writes the screenplay for the first time with Jeff Van Wie. This duo gets some mileage from effective quotes from Steve like “Love is fragile. And we’re not always its best caretakers,” but the gentle plot pulls each moment a bit too long as too many included genres spoil the mix where more character development could have improved this movie.
Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, and Spanish while the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is complimented by a French audio track also in 5.1. Background noises, wave crashes, and crowd chatter pick up surprisingly well here.
“Hope You Find It” and “When I Look at You” are the standout songs. The “Look” video and making of the music video featurette explores the film’s theme song with Cyrus and veteran music filmmaker Adam Shankman, who also co-produced the film. This film provides great music without Cyrus as the focal point, but audiences know she’s talented early in the story with a mention of Julliard.
The lively audio commentary track includes Robinson and co-producer Jennifer Gibgot addressing the characters’ relationships well, but the commentary needs more specific substance and references related to the film. Other featurettes include a five minute set tour hosted by Coleman and a more dramatic opening sequence with optional director commentary. Kinnear gets more screen time in more than seven minutes of deleted scenes with optional director commentary.
The strong casting elevates the familiar plot and romance/drama elements a bit, but Last Song is a still a bit too long at one hour and 47 minutes. Recommended with reservations and rated PG for thematic material, some violence, sensuality, and mild language.
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