I hate the fact that these teen romances always have such cheesy songs. It makes you feel like you’re watching a series of videos instead of an actual movie. At least when it comes to Katie (Bella Thorne, from the underrated teen comedy The DUFF) playing her guitar and singing, her songs are kind of catchy.
She also has chemistry with the town hunk Charlie. He’s played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s son Patrick. The good news is that he doesn’t have that same annoying voice Ah-nold has. The bad news is…he seems a bit stiff and unnatural. Normally that might be how a teenager might act, but I don’t think it was intentional here.
Katie has a rare disease called Xeroderma pigmentosum, which means even a small amount of exposure to the sun could kill her. My wife said as Katie was looking it up online, “What would these movies do if they didn’t have computers to show us what was going on?” But hey — that’s a rare disease (only affecting 1 in a million people) I didn’t know about, so I’ll take that over some character walking in and giving expository dialogue that feels forced. Which is exactly what they did when we see a doctor later in the film.
Each day, from the time she was little, Katie has watched Charlie walk by her house to school. When he got older, she’d watch him skateboard in the neighborhood. Since it’s graduation, she decides she’ll go to her usual haunt — the train station to busk with her guitar. In one of the great contrivances movies like this have, Charlie just left a bonfire disappointed. Not because the hottest girl there was flirting with him and his friends think he’s crazy for not hooking up with her. It’s because his swimming scholarship at Berkeley has been taken away after a shoulder injury. He sees (and hears) Katie sing, and that’s how their romance begins.
Obviously, things are awkward at first. She gives him a bogus story about having to rush home to take care of her dead cat. It was cute, but…I wondered why on their first date things just went so smoothly. Surely a teen that has never had any interaction with boys (or most kids, for that matter), you’d think it would take weeks of dates before they start to gel. But hey — the movie is only 90 minutes, and things needed to start happening. Luckily for us, their dates are cute enough. It’s also sweet watching her slightly rebellious best friend (Quinn Shephard) egging her on and being the voice of reason.
It has the vibe of a Nicholas Sparks vehicle, which teens will dig. Adults will roll their eyes, but in full disclosure, my rolling eyes also occasionally had tears falling from them, too. A lot of that had to do with watching the father (interesting casting of Rob Riggle, who we’re used to seeing in wacky comedies). Knowing he has a daughter that is so unhealthy, and wanting her to enjoy life, and how he struggles with that. I wish his character would’ve been a little hipper. And really, how many scenes did we need to see of him in the dark room of his house developing photos of his daughter? It felt like I was watching Woody Allen. First, doesn’t he know about digital cameras? Second, why not show photos of other things he captured at night? Show that he has a knack for photography. I also wish he had more interesting conversations with the doctor, so we’d be wondering whether she’s a possible love interest (his wife died from a non-sun related reason). My wife and I were also a bit confused as to why the doctor asked why Katie never comes to the appointments. He laughs and says something like, “You know teenagers.” Well…how can she go to appointments unless they’re at night? And, wouldn’t the person with the disease have to be at the appointments?
This is all based on the Japanese film Taiyo no uta from over 10 years ago (where Xeroderma pigmentosum is a lot more common).
The shaky camera in this got a bit annoying. And I kept thinking about how many of these scenes could’ve been done better. With so many teen type songs, I was wishing they’d give us just one adult “sun” song; heck, The Beatles have three to choose from: Here Comes the Sun, I’ll Follow the Sun, and Good Day Sunshine. Even Dear Prudence would work (The sun is up, the sky is blue/It’s beautiful and so are you/Dear Prudence, won’t you come out and play).
Of course, most of the scenarios are unbelievable and manipulative, but the movie could’ve been a lot worse.
Teens are going to love it.
2 stars out of 5.