It’s always interesting to see how a child star will handle growing up. Some young stars go off the rails, like party girl Lindsey Lohan. Others take serious and difficult roles to prove just how far they have come.
Aside from the scandalous nude photo shoot a few years back, Miley Cyrus – singing sensation Hannah Montana to every pre-teen out there – seems to be handling the transition fairly well.
The problem is, in new film The Last Song, it’s quite hard to shake off her cutesy TV persona and believe her in a grown-up love story. Every time she has a heartrending line to deliver, you half expect her to put on a blonde wig and burst into song.
If you’re not already a big fan, or if cheesy teenage romances aren’t your thing, it’s probably one to give a miss.
Miley plays Ronnie, a sulky teenager shipped off for the summer to a small beach town with her divorced dad (Greg Kinnear) and irritating younger brother.
Ronnie is troubled, with a capital T, which we know because she stomps around with messy hair wearing lots of black, picking fights with her parents and even getting into trouble with the law.
She barely graduated from high school and doesn’t seem to have any future prospects.
A talented pianist, Ronnie hasn’t played a note since her parents’ messy break up a few years ago and barely speaks to her dad, who taught her to play as a child.
Not that he’s in such good shape, having been blamed for a fire that destroyed the town church the previous year.
It’s a recipe for the holiday from hell, especially as (dad) tries to get to know his estranged daughter by spying on her and cooking her meat even though she’s a vegetarian.
It takes a holiday romance with a local heartthrob Will (Liam Hemsworth) who has issues of his own, the rescue of some baby turtles and an unexpected tragedy to change Ronnie back from an ASBO-waiting-to-happen to the All American girl next door.
Co-written by Nicholas Sparks, the brains behind weepies like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, The Last Song is as soppy and sugary as films get.
There are lots of shots of the beautiful scenery and the soundtrack has a great summery vibe. Watching the film makes you want to dash to your nearest airport for a beach holiday. But that’s also because you’ll want to get away from the cinema, and fast.
Most of The Last Song is far-fetched and ridiculous, from Ronnie’s first meeting with Will (when he hits her over the head with a volley ball and spills her milkshake all down her) to the crow-bar wielding lunatic who crashes his sisters wedding.
Not to forget Ronnie’s all-night stake out on the beach to ward off hungry racoons from eating the turtle eggs.
Watching her wielding a baseball bat and a big book for protection, you could be forgiven for thinking this was meant to be a comedy film, which one imagines is not what the director had in mind.
In fact, instead of tears during all the emotional scenes – and there are quite a few – you’ll be biting back laughter because of the wooden acting and awkward dialogue.
Will, who looks like a young Paul Walker, is as hammy as they get; a cardboard cut out might be more convincing.
He’s great as the dumb athlete Ronnie meets, but not so believable as a braniac with family battles of his own.
The big ‘twist’ at the end won’t come as much of a surprise either.
But the real problem with the film isn’t with any of those things but with Miley’s character.
When the film starts Ronnie is the girl parents would lock their daughters away from – as her mum moans, all her friends have piercings.
Then suddenly she starts acting like she’s in a toothpaste advert, all big smiles, playing in the sea and chummy chats with her dad and brother.
In five minutes, we go from sulky, bratty nightmare to loved-up girly girl happy to have her initials carved into a tree and get dolled up in puffy pink dresses.
It’s like going for a loo break during Glee and watching Sue Sylvester morph into Katie Price, and it isn’t at all convincing.
Even Miley and Hannah aren’t that different, and they had two different hair colours to boot.
The actress gets plus points for looking the right age for the seventeen-year-old character she’s playing, but that’s about it.
The film might be a fairytale romance but by the end of it you won’t be feeling happily ever after – just fed up.
That said, true Miley fans probably won’t mind.
Like the candyfloss films of similar Disney-ified stars like Hilary Duff or the Olsen Twins, this is one for pre-teen girls only.
For everyone else, wait for the DVD. At least then it will be a quicker dash to the toilet when you start feeling queasy.