The legion of female teenage fans who turn up in droves for this preview screening is probably testament to the drawing power of Zac Efron, probably Hollywood's latest heartthrob who's standing his ground with his alpha male status from the High School Musical series, to films like Hairspray and 17 Again (also directed by Burr Steers) where he plays a star basketballer who's life didn't turn out as he thinks. In Charlie St. Cloud, a romance flick with its title named after his character (which tells a lot about his ability to marquee a film), he too plays a star sportsman (here it's sailing) whose championship potential got cut short by tragedy, which turned him into someone who can see and communicate with dead people.
I kid you not if you think this was a Shaymalan picture, but it's more Disney friendly that you can imagine, with his powers only limited to communicating with spirits caught in limbo, and thus making him the town looney where it's best to leave him alone. His powers only came where he was pulled from the brink of death by a paramedic (Ray Liotta) some five years ago, where his babysitting of his young brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) turned out tragically in ways that's not his fault, because Zac Efon's the latest blue eyed boy of the industry, and his character cannot be all that negative (see uproar cause by 17 Again's premarital sex)
From what would be the promise of sailing challenges and scholarships, Charlie becomes a cemetary caretaker in the same cemetary his brother got buried in, so as to be able to play catch with him every evening deep in the woods without fail, as his guilt made him succumb to not being able to let go and move on. To most he's a lost cause, that his second stab at life was wasted in doing menial work other than to change the world or something, but this doesn't bother Charlie so long as he gets to seek out his dead brother as a confidante.
But of course a romance movie will suggest to you that love will conquer all and set him free, and this comes in the form of Tess (Amanda Crew), his school mate admiring him from afar, sharing his same passion for sailing (not spook interacting) and is gearing up for the challenge of sailing solo around the world. Curious about Charlie and never hiding the fact that she's interested in him, they soon hook up, but there's more to this romantic angle that I will like to give it credit to as I didn't see it coming, feeling rather bored about the film until a spanner got thrown into its narrative to shake things up a little.
The one thing working against Charlie St. Cloud's favour is just how convenient things can turn out to be, especially in its final act involving shooting stars (told you it's far out) and strokes of luck, but for fans of Efron these can all be overlooked so long as their hero gets plenty of screen time as a romantic lead spouting lines like never leaving you, and being together forever, anything that's swoon-worthy enough to appeal to his demographic fan base. It's not a perfect movie, but has enough to make it an above average date movie.