Turns out Sparks wrote both the novel and the screenplay (a credit he shares with Jeff Van Wie) with Miley Cyrus specifically in mind. In it, the erstwhile Hannah Montana plays Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, an angry New York City teen with a chip on her shoulder and a police record to prove it. So it is with extreme angst and reluctance that the onetime piano prodigy, along with her plucky and precocious little brother (played by Bobby Coleman), are sent to stay with her estranged father (Greg Kinnear) at the Georgia coast for the summer. The latest film in the Nicholas Sparks hit parade, 'The Last Song' marks a departure from the author's previous movie adaptations, which include 'The Notebook,' 'Nights in Rodanthe' and 'Dear John.' Don't get us wrong: It's still an unlikely romance. There's still an inevitable death. And there's that proximity to the water. But this one's different because it marks the best-selling author's first attempt at screenwriting.
Turns out Sparks wrote both the novel and the screenplay (a credit he shares with Jeff Van Wie) with Miley Cyrus specifically in mind. In it, the erstwhile Hannah Montana plays Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, an angry New York City teen with a chip on her shoulder and a police record to prove it. So it is with extreme angst and reluctance that the onetime piano prodigy, along with her plucky and precocious little brother (played by Bobby Coleman), are sent to stay with her estranged father (Greg Kinnear) at the Georgia coast for the summer.
Ronnie is angry with the world, and she takes it out on her father, whom she still blames for her parents' divorce. But chance encounters with some sea turtles and the hunky local volleyball-playing stud (played by Cyrus' real-life beau Liam Hemsworth) ultimately coax the teen to let down her guard.
'The Last Song' is getting a jump on the holiday weekend with its Wednesday release. But will audiences be up for another Sparks weepie, particularly coming so closely on the heels of 'Dear John'? Most of the 'Last Song' reviews couldn't help but to draw comparisons to the previous adaptation, released just a couple months earlier. Nor could they help but point out that Cyrus was outmatched by her first dramatic role.
But don't take our word for it. Take a look at the reviews below, and then let us know what you think.
The New York Times: " 'Dear John,' directed by Lasse Hallstrom, is superior because there is less of everything, and also because the cast has more talent. In that film Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum play the star-crossed young lovers, whereas in 'The Last Song' the duty falls on Ms. Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, who in spite of being a real-life item are just not up to the task. Not that it is easy to strike the proper emotional tone in a movie that is as stuffed with bogus feeling and overwrought incident as a fast-food burrito."
Associated Press: "At present, the 17-year-old Cyrus has an undeniable presence, but her dramatic abilities largely consist of two moves - scrunching up her face and staring wistfully into the distance. ... Kinnear lends the movie a dignity it doesn't deserve and stands as the only cast member whose dramatic moments aren't propped up by soaring musical cues."
Roger Ebert: "Miley Cyrus ... is attractive in the way of a girl you might actually meet. Her acting is unaffected, she can play serious, and she works easily with a pro like Kinnear, whose light comedy skills are considerable and undervalued. She even seems sincere in the face of a plot so blatantly contrived it seems like an after-school special. ... The movie is intended, of course, for Miley Cyrus admirers, and truth compels me to report that on that basis alone, it would get four stars. But we cannot all be Miley Cyrus fans. ... Yet I award the film two and a half stars."
San Francisco Chronicle: "To watch 'The Last Song' is to feel a little sorry for Nicholas Sparks. If he's like almost every other writer, he didn't write the screenplay as a cynical exercise, but in the hope of doing something worthwhile. And then that hope imploded with the performance of Miley Cyrus, who makes her debut here as the star of a dramatic feature."
The Orlando Sentinel: "It's not a great film, with some of the edge Sparks put in the novel left out of the script. But there's real chemistry between the young lovers and an old-fashioned virtue to the father-daughter and father-daughter's boyfriend scenes. Sparks often goes overboard with the maudlin and "old fashioned." But with 'The Last Song,' those traits don't feel like a wet sack smothering the life out of it."
The Hollywood Reporter: "The movie so deftly mixes sentimentality, romance and bathos in just the right measures that her fans and maybe new ones will enjoy the new Miley."
Fresno Bee: "The role of Ronnie pushes Cyrus to play a defiant, distraught and distant teen. It's a huge stretch for Cyrus. And at this point in her acting career, the role is just beyond her reach. It would have helped if Sparks - who wrote the story with Cyrus in mind - had done a better job to match the character to the actress. Just listen to Cyrus speak for 10 seconds and you'll get the point."
Chicago Tribune: "Those familiar with Sparks' 'The Notebook' (aka 'the good one'), 'Nights in Rodanthe' and this year's 'Dear John' will find the contours of 'The Last Song' either comforting or shopworn. It depends on your tolerance for wordless, song-drenched transitional scenes in which lovers throw each other into the surf while the soundtrack does the rest."
Variety: "Reportedly initiated by the star, who wished to emulate the 2002 Sparks-sourced Mandy Moore vehicle 'A Walk to Remember,' 'The Last Song' is a predictable but not unpleasant bid to reassure young fans -- and their moms -- that the rapidly maturing Cyrus still holds family values."
USA Today: "As in 'Dear John,' a hunky blond guy and sassy girl meet cute on the beach. Both films contend with obstacles impeding the course of true love, fraught familial relationships, senseless tragedies, youthful criminality and life-threatening illnesses. All the obvious elements combine to manipulate the audience into a weepy time at the movies - again."