The Last Song, Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth

Touchstone Pictures/Sam Emerson

Review in a Hurry: Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus has indicated that this project, costarring heavyweights like Greg Kinnear, is her first foray into more-serious projects (she called her character in this movie "out there"). But this by-the-numbers romantic weeper feels more like a manipulative vehicle than a risk.

The Bigger Picture: Cyrus plays Ronnie, a teenager dragged from her home in New York City to spend the summer at the beach house of her estranged dad (Kinnear). Ronnie is mean and sulky and, per her mom (Kelly Preston), a rebel. But this is also a Miley Cyrus movie, which means that Ronnie is rebellious in the same way that the Haunted Mansion is terrifying: The Hannah Montana wig has been swapped for a little extra eyeliner, a few new piercings and some stacked bracelets. Ronnie stole something once, but she feels seriously bad about it, and would rather read books and rescue little baby sea turtles.

Enter the summer love interest, Will (Liam Hemsworth), who, as the genre insists, pursues and pursues, no matter how mean our heroine is. That's because, as any member of the American Girl set will tell you, Will can see who Ronnie is on the inside. The two quickly fall in love amid aquatic-themed montages.

But of course, It's Not That Simple. (Will even says that at least twice, just in case we don't get it.) People are keeping Secrets, including one that, natch, threatens to keep Will and Ronnie apart like forever!

More significantly, the second half of the film veers sharply from summer romance to ham-handed tearjerker, with almost zero foreshadowing on the part of writers Jeff Van Wie and Nicholas Sparks. Then again, Sparks has said he wrote this whole shebang for Cyrus, so it's maybe unfair to ask more from a film that's clearly a vehicle. No need to make a star push the boundaries when you can set up another shot of her pouting into the sun, wind whipping her hair.

The first half of the movie is rocky, but forgivable in its occasional sweetness. But by the time Will takes Ronnie home to mother, it's tough not to feel manipulated by a story that's so blatantly by-the-numbers.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Well, Greg Kinnear is always good.


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