Let me preface this review by insisting that The Last Song is kind of trash. It is not your everyday studio film, but rather more closely resembling something from the same nest that Lifetime movies are hatched from. It’s perfect viewing for a lazy afternoon or a rainy day, but not your typical A-billing feature to impress your friends with.
The first half is actually laugh-out-loud bad. It follows a predictable narrative, two kids from a broken home leave their mother’s home to spend a summer with their father. The situations and dialogue feel weirdly familiar, probably because we’ve seen and heard them all before. The sullen, rebellious teen daughter sulks around and runs into the local hunk, who is of course shirtless. The father is clueless about how to raise kids and jokes about the “handbook” of paternity. The young son (who is a lousy actor, by the way) raises his eyebrows excitedly at everything, because I guess someone told him that’s how you act.
Halfway through, though, The Last Song unexpectedly yet satisfyingly switches gears. I don’t want to spoil much, but the movie shifts to a more realistic and tragic direction. We get some great moments between Miley Cyrus and Greg Kinnear, filled with sincerity that is lacking throughout the mostly over-the-top script.
At its heart, The Last Song could elevate from being an entertaining time-killer movie to being a pretty good or even very good one. It has an engaging enough story, but is weighed down by a terrible script and kind of lousy direction. The opening and closing credits look as though they were made using Windows Movie Maker, and the editing is often awkward and you constantly feel as if you are watching a movie – the illusion of reality very rarely fools the audience.
I would probably only recommend this movie to the most hardcore of Miley Cyrus fans, simply for fear that most viewers wouldn’t have the patience to sit through the disastrous first hour. For all prospective audience members, however, it is a movie worth sitting through, even if it takes a while to actually get good. The Last Song offers a surprisingly painful yet believable ending that makes up for the wannabe Lifetime flick that precedes it.