Director: Scott Speer
Starring: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard, Nicholas Coombe
It seems like most YA movies fall into one of two genres –dystopian anti-government or romance. Midnight Sun falls in the second genre and is a remake of a Japanese movie from 2006. Bella Thorne, best known for The DUFF or her Disney Channel show Shake It Up, stars as Katie who suffers from a rare condition called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP). Yes, it’s a real condition. She leads a vampire-style life, staying indoors asleep in the daytime and awakens at night. She has an extreme sensitivity to sunlight to the point where exposure could cause cancer or death. She’s home schooled by her dad (Riggle) and is an aspiring singer songwriter. Every day, she watches Charlie (Schwarzenegger) pass her house on his skateboard on the way to school. He’s the good-looking star swimmer, yet shies away from the traditional obnoxious lifestyle associated with the popular kids . Late one night he hears her playing guitar, singing one of her original songs outside the train station. He approaches her, and she awkwardly fumbles for words as her crush is finally noticing her. This marks the beginning of their summer fling as college quickly approaches. Katie desperately wants to feel like a normal teen girl falling in love and risks her health in order to spend as much time with Charlie as possible.
It’s wise to approach Midnight Sun acknowledging that it’s a teen fantasy romance that plays like Nicholas Sparks Light. His movies always have a very similar premise where opposites attract and someone has a life-threatening condition. This is the first film for screenwriter Eric Kirsten and he has clearly catered to the 12-16 year old demographic. The movie is full of grandiose romantic gestures, surprise getaways, and corny dialogue with larger than life proclamations. Only in these types of movies does the male lead have the means to whisk the girl away to the big city giving her the night of her life where he inevitably gets her to break out of her shy mold. I don’t remember that ever happening when I was in high school.
What matters most is if the two leads have chemistry. Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger work well enough together on screen to make this relationship plausible. Director Scott Speer plays up the humor with how many odd things Katie says or does around Charlie when they first meet. Speer gives their relationship a wholesome approach and makes sure that his actors keep their characters as grounded and relatable as possible. Thorne seems to be playing a bit more against type. I’m used to seeing her as the bratty, rich snob, and this film gets us to see her in a more down to Earth, innocent light. She has a very natural presence on screen, and this character could help reshape her image in front of and behind the camera. Don’t expect Patrick Schwarzenegger to exactly follow in his father’s footsteps. He won’t be playing a young Terminator anytime soon, as they’re completely different acting types. He has the boy next door look, not the macho action star. He shows promise as an actor, but it’s evident that Thorne has far more experience than he does. He feels a bit too closed off and needs to open up and feel a bit freer to be a goofball on screen. I don’t think it’s a character choice to make Charlie more reserved, but an actor’s fear of being too big on camera.
It’s best to go into Midnight Sun looking for an easy teen weeper sprinkled with a few unrealistic moments throughout. I was told Kleenex may be needed by the end, but I never cry, so I’m not the best judge at tissue levels. It’s by no means groundbreaking in the genre of YA romances. The Fault in Our Stars still remains supreme as a teen romance that transcends your usual age demographic. You can figure out how Midnight Sun is going to end about half way through. Luckily, it runs about ninety minutes and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? You may roll your eyes, but your teen kid will like it.
RATING: 2 out of 5 TICKET STUBS