Zac Efron's latest movie, "Charlie St. Cloud," targets his tween fans. (Universal Pictures)
"Charlie St. Cloud" lacks bite.
Which doesn't mean the film itself completely bites. It doesn't, in fact, it just plays things very safe, targeting Zac Efron's tween fans with a vaguely supernatural romance that's sure to elicit sighs and promote pin-up posters, which is fine.
But the film is a bit of a comedown for Efron after playing the lead in last year's fine "Me and Orson Welles." It's even a bit more milquetoast than his last film, the occasionally racy "17 Again."
Instead, it plays into his whole teen idol thing when he should probably be pushing against it.
Efron is the title character, a champion sailor heading off to Stanford from his sleepy fishing village. He has a precocious 11-year-old brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan), who idolizes him.
After director Burr Steers establishes the jocular sibling bond, he jumps right into the film's central tragedy -- Sam is killed by a drunken driver. Charlie is grievously injured as well and flat lines, but miraculously comes back to life.
From this point it appears that Charlie has cracked, because when we flash forward five years we see his Stanford dreams evaporated, and he's now the caretaker at the local cemetery.
Which is convenient, since he spends every afternoon playing baseball and talking with Sam's ghost, or his imagination. You have to wait and find out.
Of course, a beautiful girl (Amanda Crew) comes along and romantic distress ensues. Will she break up his afternoons with his dead brother, or will Sam cling to Charlie and ruin his future?
The problem is, by this time you don't really care much. "Charlie St. Cloud" sees dead people. Big deal. It's been done before. Where's a vampire when you need one?