Any film based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks – from “The Notebook” to “Dear John” – is going to be sentimental. It’s how the actors wade through the emotional bogs that make or break the film.
Miley Cyrus throws off the blond wig of Hannah Montana to play rebellious teen Ronnie in the latest Sparks-born production, “The Last Song.”
Ronnie does nothing to hide her contempt when she and her little brother (Bobby Coleman) are sent from New York City to a beach town in Georgia to spend the summer with their father, Steve (Greg Kinnear).
This is a summer of discovery – both good and bad.
The role of Ronnie pushes Cyrus to play a defiant, distraught and distant teen. It’s a huge stretch, and at this point in her acting career, the role is just beyond her reach.
It would have helped if Sparks – who wrote the story with Cyrus in mind – had done a better job of matching the character to the actress. Just listen to Cyrus speak for 10 seconds and you’ll get the point.
Director Julie Anne Robinson was smart enough to cast Kinnear, who provides the right acting edge. Only his scenes with Cyrus have a spark of truth.
Kinnear has a knack for playing characters with heavy hearts who are more complex than they seem (“As Good As it Gets,” “Auto Focus,” “Flash of Genius”). That ability is what makes “The Last Song” more sentimental than melodramatic.
At least he gets a chance. Kelly Preston, who plays his ex-wife, is reduced to less screen time than a music video.
Except for Kinnear, “The Last Song” could have been a Disney Channel movie with its familiar boy-meets-girl storyline.
The film doesn’t hit any major sour notes. It’s just a familiar tune that could have used some better supporting voices for Kinnear.