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Movie Review

Charlie St. Cloud also known as “Wie durch ein Wunder”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Fantasy Romance Mystery Drama
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2010
USA Release:
July 30, 2010 (wide—2,500+ theaters)
DVD: November 9, 2010
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Death in the Bible

Ghosts

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES—Who is the being of light encountered in near-death experiences? Answer

Final judgment

Pain and suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

Love

TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Premarital sex

Fornication in the Bible

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

My boyfriend wants to have sex. I don’t want to lose him. What should I do? Answer

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Sex, Love & Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.
Featuring: Zac Efron (Charlie St. Cloud), Amanda Crew (Tess Carroll), Ray Liotta (Florio Ferrente), Kim Basinger (Louise St. Cloud), Chris Massoglia (older Sam St. Cloud), more »
Director: Burr Steers—“17 Again,” “Igby Goes Down”
Producer: Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Marc Platt Productions, Charlie Film Productions, Michael Fottrell, Michael Fottrell, Marc Platt, Ben Sherwood
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“Life is for living.”

Charlie St. Cloud’s (Zac Efron) life is smooth sailing both in and out of the water. A sailing champion, he has been rewarded a scholarship to Stanford. Before leaving, Charlie promises his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) that he’ll spend the entire summer helping him practice his baseball skills. Tragically, a violent car wreck kills Sam. While Charlie almost dies himself, he’s able to be resuscitated by a determined paramedic.

Though physically alive, Charlie’s spirit becomes profoundly broken, withdrawing itself from life’s merriments. He’s soon labeled the town’s eccentric recluse and spends his days working in his brother’s cemetery. He’s also bound to his commitment to the deceased Sam. Everyday at sunset for the past five years, Charlie rushes to their secret meeting place and plays catch with his dead brother. This routine is determinedly kept until Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew) saunters into Charlie’s life, forcing him to choose between moving on or to keep hold on what’s already lost.

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Seemingly influenced by “The Sixth Sense” and “The Invisible,” the film spends a great amount of time, showing Charlie conversing with Sam about varying topics, while they play catch. Is Charlie simply hallucinating or does he really have the ability to see ghosts? While some references are insinuated both ways, a forthright answer is never provided. The film does provide beautiful landscapes and ocean viewsghosts, but the focus on characters and plot felt very shallow and almost as a simple skimming through. The shallowness makes it hard to connect with the characters; even the love interest between Tess and Charlie felt a bit rushed, not allowing itself to become deeply rooted.

With the entire plot given away in the theatrical trailers, the movie moves at a slow pace, focusing primarily on Sam and Charlie. The already thin plot is further marred by the poorly and vaguely written characters. The result is an unengaging piece of work, leaving ample time to prematurely guess the ending and analyze the film. And the concluded analysis is that Zac Efron’s entirely responsible for raising the film’s quality up a few notches. The young man can act rather well, and the film allowed him to exhibit a broader range.

The film has a slight religious reference to it. Ray Liotta has a brief cameo as Florio Ferrente, the devoted Catholic paramedic who never gave up on trying to bring Charlie back to life. Five years after the accident, a now cancer-stricken Florio runs into Charlie, and reminds the younger man that God had given him a second chance at life and that Charlie shouldn’t squander the gift he’s been given. This is true, since life is indeed a brief gift in which we are never promised tomorrow. In James 4:14. it says:

“why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes.”

However, Florio later says he has no regrets, since he has lived a full life and has seen many miracles. And with that, he’ll be able to tell St. Peter this when he arrives at the pearly white gates. While people will often say that it’s important to live a full life, a definition of a successful one can often vary. Our true purpose is to wholeheartedly serve Christ. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. He replied:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

While there are some religious references, they are too mild to be counted, since Jesus Christ is never mentioned and, also, because the movie’s supernatural elements of ghosts, crossing over, and all the dead seeing the “light” dominate the film’s atmosphere. The combined religious and supernatural elements seem somewhat contradictory, making the movie’s true purpose or worldview ambiguous.

As for other objectionable content, there’s some profanity with two uses of the word d*ck, 2 sh*t, 1 as*, and 1 SOB. Sam also tells his brother “blow me.” There are some drinking scenes in the film and a few kissing scenes. There is an implied sexual encounter between Charlie and Tess. In the scene, they kiss while she takes off his shirt. In the subsequent shot, they are shown lying together without shirts. However, only the shoulders and above are shown. And lastly, there is a brief fight scene where Charlie pushes and punches one of his old rivals.

I don’t recommend “Charlie St. Cloud.” Personally, I found it rather boring, drawn out, and a bit too sappy. And with its theme shrouded within contradictions, it was hard to find a redeeming value to it. If you are still interested, I recommend waiting for the DVD release. However, I still look forward to future Zac Efron projects, since he’s steadily been able to show his growth as an actor.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate to Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—As one who had lost a sister at a young age and, also, had believed that in some way I was guilty, I thought this film’s story presented a healing message for those who have been trapped in grief and guilt. Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and if we continue to believe his lie, we can never become what God has created us to be. If we hang on to that guilt, we can never realize our loved one has a wonderful home with our heavenly father.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Claudette, age 74 (USA)
Positive—I feel this movie about a young man dealing with his brother’s death to be very thought provoking and worthwhile, despite its rather far presentation on the surface. From a Christian perspective it’s not perfect by any stretch, but I feel the positives outweigh the negatives and it can promote healthy discussion after the film.

It deals with death and overcoming grief and so is quite a sad film in places. I went to see this movie twice, to give it a second chance, because the first time I found the supernatural aspects to be a bit confusing. My first impression was also that they rested a bit too much on Zac Efron’s stunning good looks. Ok, that doesn’t sound great, but if you look at the movie as a whole the good themes of making the best of second chances and that if God gave you a second chance to live what would you do with it, become more clear.

It’s also about moving forward and leaving your past sorrows behind, as well as a subtle message of not taking your loved ones for granted. The love story is secondary in some ways as the characters struggle to deal with these issues in their lives. Despite the God references and I heard that Jesus' name was used at the funeral, it did contain some inconsistencies or things that will be offensive to some. After the accident, Charlie abstains from alcohol and one wonders if this is because of the accident being caused by a drunk driver, but later he seems to drink freely.

People who have died in the film seem to be in a sort of half-way state when they stay on Earth until they are “ready” to go on to heaven and Charlie can see and talk to them. It seems in the story that they choose this time themselves, when they are ready to go. Some are ready to go quickly as Charlie’s former classmate who went to war, and others are hesitant to go such as Sam because he wants to stay with Charlie. It’s not clear where Sam is when he isn’t with Charlie. Sam does not seem to be aware of people who died, but Charlie’s friend tells Charlie he will say hi to Sam for him when he decides to go.

There is mention of people seeing “a light” when they die in reference to after life experiences.

Also, the location and intensity of the implied love-making scene will be viewed by some as inappropriate even though it is within “PG guidelines”. I like the strong… Christian message in the film, and although there is some minimal swearing and some inappropriate uses of God’s name, the message that God has a purpose for people’s lives comes through clearly. I, also, like how the paramedic who saved Charlie’s life attributed Charlie’s second chance to God’s intervention. He wore a St. Jude charm around his neck and later we find out that St. Jude is the Saint for desperate or hopeless causes.

Charlie learns through his experiences why God gave him a second chance, and he is able to apply this same truth that was passed on to him, allowing a miracle to happen. There are no hopeless causes when God is on our side!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Kathy, age 50 (Canada)
Positive—This movie was a lot better than I expected. Zac Efron’s acting usually makes me cringe—not so in this movie. I thought it was a different take on the whole ghost thing, how the ghosts weren’t see-through. ***SPOILER*** Which brings up a weird part, when you realize the girl he was making love to wasn’t real. A little strange…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Corrie Henderson, age 18 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—We were able to see the pre-screening of this movie before it hit the theaters. It was entertaining, but somewhat confusing at times. There was an implied sexual relationship, but it seemed to be not reality… or was it? Perhaps much of the movie is in the main character’s head and not real, except the part where another character was dreaming the exact same thing (ESP?).

Also, the part about seeing his dead brother was a little weird, except you could explain it away as that is how he handled his grief (but who was throwing the ball back to him? hmmmm…). I don’t want to give too much away, I suppose you could interpret the movie as either a) he had a spiritual vision from God or b) it was just plain weird. The acting was good and believable.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Chelle, age 58 (USA)
Negative
Negative—As someone who is a follower of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, and as someone whose life is guided by God’s Word, the Bible, I found the underlying theme of this movie to be extremely offensive. The underlying theme of this movie is one of idolatry and necromancy, things that are in total opposition to what God’s Word says followers of Christ should be about! The idolatrous aspect comes in when the different characters are looking to St Jude (which is nothing more than a man-made idol) to give them guidance, hope, help, and miracles. God’s Word clearly states that we are NOT to give God’s glory to another, nor pray to idols or mere men.

Exodus 20:3-5—“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” God’s Word also states that Jesus is the one and only mediator that we have or that we need.

1 Timothy 2:5—”For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” In this movie “help” and answers come from dead Charlie, dead Jude, and yet Jesus' name is only mentioned once in reference to where the help is NOT being sought. I also found it extremely offensive how this movie glorified and made seem normal necromancy. Necromancy is the evocation of the dead, and God’s Word calls this practice an abomination.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12—“There shall not be found among you any one] that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, OR A NECROMANCER. FOR ALL THAT DO THESE THINGS ARE AN ABOMINATION UNTO THE LORD; and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.”

I would not recommend this movie to followers of Jesus Christ, and I wish that I had not seen it for myself.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Raf, age 46 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I love Zac Efron, so that’s why I watched the movie, and I fell in love with the movie the first time I saw the preview. I’m a sucker for these types of movies, and I thought it was good and heartfelt and had twists. I thought it was really good, though I thought the scene in the graveyard was awkward because who makes out and does that in a graveyard, and, also, I believe in waiting til' marriage, but still liked the movie, and my mom saw nothing wrong with it either, cause she saw it with me, though she wasn’t supposed to.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Isabel, age 14 (USA)
Neutral—I have also lost my brother, about 2 years ago. He was 10. So I GET this movie, and I absolutely love it; I can really understand what he is going through. The only think I don’t like about these movies is they’re kinda fake. He moves on pretty fast, and I don’t know, some of it just isn’t realistic, at all. But I still love the movie; the actors are great
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Morgan, age 14 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I almost ordered this movie the other day but looked at the information and remembered that it was about interacting with the dead. The bible states that the dead know not anything. [Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten (KJV)] I was surprised that I did not see this in any of the other comments. I challenge others to double check the “WORD” and come to a clear decision about what it says about dead people. There are many other mentions about this topic in the bible.
My Ratings: Moral rating: / Moviemaking quality:
—Mae, age 47 (USA)