Film Review: Terminator’s Son Does Not Shine in ‘Midnight Sun’
“Dying-Girl Romance” is what I call the genre. Without having to think too much about it, you know exactly whereof I speak, thanks to Nicholas Sparks’s movies.
I was ready to slam this one, but then I had to admit to myself that I enjoyed looking at Bella Thorne’s wan, heavenly visage rather a lot—so much, in fact, that time had almost passed pleasantly, regardless of numerous patches of egregious acting. These flimsy dying-girl films are cast with human versions of heavenly maidens for exactly this reason.
Wait, flimsy? Shouldn’t teenagers get to be sad about lost love and the ephemeral essence of earthly existence? The stories aren’t dispensable, just the execution.
In America, we don’t like to admit certain things to ourselves; but basically, for adults, the genre is a guilty pleasure. Like Jack Nicholson’s character Colonel Jessup said in “A Few Good Men,” “Deep down, in places you don’t like to talk about at parties,” we want to watch a Nicholas Sparks-type romance. When no one’s looking. At least men do.
Tragic Heroine With a Rare Disease
Super-pale Katie (Bella Thorne), born with a rare-but-actual condition called XP (xeroderma pigmentosum), can’t be exposed to sunlight. She’s genetically unable to heal UV-ray damage. For Katie, sunlight equals swift death by some kind of immediate tumor.
Katie’s widowed, doting-dad, Jack (Rob Riggle), home-schooled her for her whole life. That’s 18 years of sitting indoors behind UV-ray-proof windows.
Anyway, she writes songs about her dead mom all day, pines for Sk8ter Boi Charlie Reid (Patrick Schwarzenegger) who skateboards past her house daily, and hangs with her perky, almost-as-cute bestie Morgan (Quinn Shephard), sometimes.
Tragic Heroine Goes on a Date
This Charlie, he is one day terribly sad; he lost his Berkeley swimming scholarship due to a partied-too-hard/dinged-his-shoulder injury. So he (naturally) ditches the awesome high school graduation beach party, with the smokin’ cheerleader (Tiera Skovbye) who would clearly like to know him biblically.
He walks home past the train station, where a lovely red-haired maiden is doing a singer-songwriter thing. He would like to know her! But nobody knows who she is!
Sooo—nobody in a small town in 18 years knows the beauty who busks nights at the train station? Can you say “deus ex machina”? Because here comes Charlie, right on time to cause immense flusterment in Katie, who flees as if her guitar would soon turn into a pumpkin and, instead of a glass slipper, leaves her song notebook behind on the train platform.
Son of Schwarzenegger Comes A-Courting
Like the Edgar Winter song “They Only Come Out at Night,” Charlie and Katie do just that. Makes you wonder if albino rock star Edgar Winter might have suffered from XP himself.
However, Katie avoids telling Charlie about her condition because she wants to pretend she’s normal. Understandable. But you just know he’s gonna get hooked like a hammerhead on pro-fishing gear and be endlessly devastated.
And right about now it hits you that this is a “Twilight” kind of story: an anguished teen romance where one person is seriously sensitive to UV rays. And, sure enough, somebody’s watch gets waterlogged during the midnight swim and, yup, there’s the sun coming up.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s kid is like a long-necked, lankier version of the Terminvater. And, like his Vater before him, would appear to take steroids, except that they engorged his Adam’s apple instead of his pecs. From one angle, Patrick’s the spitting image of his Vater, and from another, slightly Harry Connick Jr.-esque. I think we’ve all been very curious about how Ah-nuld’s offspring would turn out, so I gave you an extensive description. You’re welcome. Suffice it to say, women and girls will find him dreamy. But can he act? Slightly.
All in All
Thorne is a little miscast. Her power-alley role is the penultimate drop-dead-gorgeous high school mean girl. She rules that; she’s like a viper crossed with a scorpion, with sharp comedic timing.
It’s likely she’s bland here because of Son-of-Terminator’s blandness. And so, with no gripping performances, it’s just beautiful kids going on dates until she’s had more sunlight than she can handle.
Unlike an actual Nicholas Sparks script, there’s nothing so dramatically over the top that it begs to be labeled cheesy. It’s just straight-up cheese because it’s an underwhelmingly acted, earnest teen romance. Aren’t all teen romances inherently a little bit ridiculous? They don’t have a clue, “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” and all that painful, hormonal craziness.
But again, we sneakily like this stuff; we will go watch youthful beauty on display, regardless of whether the acting is top-shelf. There’s another type of movie where the acting doesn’t matter whatsoever. This is, at least, infinitely more wholesome than that.
Director: Scott Speer
Starring: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Release Date: March 23
Rated 2 stars out of 5