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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Last Song

August 11th, 2010

The Last Song - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

When The Last Song hit theaters earlier this year, it was eviscerated by critics. A lot of them singled out Miley Cyrus, who was making her dramatic debut in this movie. Now that I've had a chance to see the film, were these critics fair in their assessment of the movie in general and of Miss Cyrus in particular?

The Movie

Miley Cyrus stars as Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, who as a kid was a prodigy on the piano. She was trained by her father, Steve, who was a professor at the Juilliard School, as well as a composer. However, after he and her mother went through a difficult divorce, she gave up on music. When her father moved to Georgia, she stopped talking to him and developed some behavioral problems (She was arrested for shoplifting). Partially because of this, Ronnie and her little brother are sent to Georgia to spend the summer with their father.

While in Georgia, Ronnie falls in with the wrong crowd. Her new frieds include Blaze, who is a shoplifter, and Marcus, her street hustler / thug boyfiend. She also meets Will, whom she at first dismisses as cocky and superficial. She still doesn't get along with her father, mostly due to the divorce. He pushes her to attend Juilliard and not give up music, just because she hates him. Over time she learns things about the people around her. How her new friends are not that friendly. How Will has more depth than she first gave him credit for. And how there's a real reason she was sent to stay with her father for the summer.

But most of all, she learns about herself.

Okay, if that last line sounds so corny that it made you wince, then you know how it feels to watch this movie. The film doesn't really work on any level, but the blame has to start with the writing. Ronnie is supposed to be this rebellious teenager, but she doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, isn't promiscuous, and even pays for a T-shirt Blaze tries to steal for her. So she's a little cranky. But she's still the kind a kid most parents would love to have. Secondly, cranky is all she is. She's a one-dimensional character, like just about everyone else in this movie. The coming of age character arc she's going through is telegraphed right from the start and there is no subtlety or deftness displayed here. This makes the film feel emotionally manipulative instead of genuinely emotional.

As for Miley Cyrus's performance in the movie, no comment. And I don't mean that as an insult. There is absolutely no way to judge her acting ability based on this film. The dialogue she is forced to give is so bad that there are very few actresses, young enough to portray a 17-year, with enough talent to salvage this film. So to say she's bad because she can't polish this turd of a script is not fair. The perfect example of this is Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar for The Blind Side and a Razzie for All About Steve, in the same year. Does anyone believe she went from worst actress of the year to best between films? No. It's just that a bad script will result in a bad performance, and this film has a terrible, terrible script. Greg Kinnear comes across as rather wooden in this movie as well, but in his case, we can point to other films he's shined in to show that it is the script, not him. Since this is Miley Cyrus's dramatic debut, it seems a lot of critics are less forgiving.

In short, the movie is as bad as the critics say. However, its the script, and not Miley Cyrus that deserves the blame. Hell, outside of Greg Kinnear, she outshines most of her co-stars.

The Extras

Assuming the DVD that comes with the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is the same as the DVD that you can buy separately, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, the extras found on it are merely adequate. The biggest extra is the audio commentary track with the director, Julie Anne Robinson, and one of the co-producers, Jennifer Gibgot. Like the movie they are talking about, it is, at best, average. Bobby Coleman, who plays the little brother, hosts a 5-minute set tour. There is a music video for "When I Look At You" and a 4-minute making of featurette for said music video. There is also a very short outtake as an Easter Egg.

The Blu-ray has these extras, plus an alternative opening and five deleted scenes, all with optional audio commentary. It's not a lot of exclusive material, and while none of it pushes the technology, it is nice to have something to thank those who bought the higher priced release.

Looking at the technical presentation, the film looks really nice most of the time. The colors are a little washed out, but that was an artistic choice, and not a fault with the transfer. It's not the best Blu-ray I've seen, but given the type of film, it's what one would expect. Likewise with the audio. The dialogue is clear, there are some ambient sounds coming from the surround speakers, etc. But this is not a Blu-ray you will use to show off your home theater system.

Finally we get to the price, which is 40% more than the DVD, adding $7. This is a little more than I would like to see; however, since the Blu-ray has a couple minor exclusive extras and comes with the DVD, that's a fair price to pay. Not that I would recommend paying for this movie.

The Verdict

Miley Cyrus could have a career ahead of her in dramatic roles, but only if she chooses better movies than this. The Last Song continues Nicholas Sparks's streak of emotionally manipulative, emotionally leaden movie adaptations that are best avoided. The Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is the better deal over the DVD, but neither are worth purchasing.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Last Song