My initial instinct upon seeing that there was a movie starring teen heartthrob Zac Efron was to run away screaming. In fact, it took I had to muster up a significant amount of courage in order to willingly view Charlie St. Cloud without the aid of an equally significant amount of alcohol. And yet, as it turns out, Charlie St. Cloud wasnâ€™t as bad as I had feared it would be. Oddly enough, the story — while somewhat predicable at times — almost came across as a heartfelt dramatic version of The Sixth Sense aimed at the Disney-oriented family audiences, with just a scooch of Dellamorte Dellamore. Well, at least it did in my eyes.
We begin with the happy white-bread world of our titular character, as portrayed by Efron (who really isnâ€™t all that bad in the role). Charlieâ€™s a promising young sailing buff in a small coastal town, whose life takes a turn for the worse when a car accident kills his younger brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan). The accident also deprives Charlie himself of the ability to breathe — but heâ€™s promptly rescued from the realm of nothingness by a paramedic (Ray Liotta). Several years later, Charlie — now a recluse — works in a cemetery. In his spare time, he retreats to a spot in the forest where he converses and plays ball with the spirit of his dead brother (yes, Zac Efron sees dead people).
His peers mostly view him as a creepy, â€śdarkâ€ť sort of fellow — although that doesnâ€™t stop some of the local girls from lusting after the caterpillar-browed young hunk (which doesnâ€™t happen, guys, trust me). Charlie, however, has no interest in reaching out to those in the world of the living. Why, heâ€™s even grown distant from his own mother (Kim Basinger, in a rather small role)! All this changes, naturally, when he meets a like-minded sailing enthusiast named Tess (Amanda Crew), and a relationship begins to form that causes the ethereal Sam to become jealous (ghosts just have too much time on their hands).
But, perhaps Charlieâ€™s ability to peer into the neighborhood of otherworldliness is a true godsend. A random encounter with the now terminally-ill paramedic who once saved his life brings to light that many things happen for a reason, and the former EMT sees Charlieâ€™s second chance at life as a gift that could very well change his own life as well as the lives of others.