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Dan's Review: Formulaic "Midnight Sun" has its charms

Mar 22, 2018 09:46PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger in Midnight Sun - © 2018 Open Road Films.

Midnight Sun (Open Road)

Rated PG-13 for some teen partying and sensuality.

Starring Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard, Tiera Skovbye, Paul McGillion, Ken Tremblett, Jenn Griffin, Nicholas Coombe, Alex Pangburn, Austin Obiajunwa.

Written by Eric Kirsten, based on the film "Midnight Sun" by Kenji Bandō.

Directed by Scott Speer.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

Teen dramas follow a basic pattern: boy/girl meets girl/boy, they “fall in love” (yes, teens “really know” what love is, but often have difficulty understanding basic finance or hygiene) and then – tragedy strikes, forcing one of them to “face mortality,” and everyone has a good cry, but not before they “really live.” That learning how to “really live” moral is the crux of the story, but only if the movie features extremely attractive youngsters. Midnight Sun is the latest teen drama to hit theaters, and it follows this basic formula, even though it’s a little more palatable than most films of its ilk.

Bella Thorne plays Katie, a beautiful teen confined to her home due to a deadly condition called “XP” (Xeroderma pigmentosum), an extremely rare disorder genetic disorder that leads to death if the individual is exposed to the Sun’s ultraviolet rays. Since childhood, Katie watches the hunky Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) pass by her window, developing a secret crush. The pair eventually meet (at night) and begin a relationship which blossoms into true love, even though Katie hides her disease for fear that he will feel more sympathy than love. Meanwhile, Katie’s best friend Morgan (Quinn Shepard) and totally cool widower dad (Rob Riggle) offer support and love while trying to convince her that she should come clean before the terminal disease takes its natural course (sorry if that’s a spoiler, but there is no cure for XP). After the most perfect and sweet all-nighter date (Charlie is pretty thick, having never pressed Katie for why she can only date after the sun sets), Katie loses track of time and is forced to rush home to beat the sunrise. Afterward, Katie’s health takes a turn for the worst, and she turns Charlie away. Will they reconcile before it’s too late?

Midnight Sun (based on a 2006 Japanese film) is formulaic to a fault, checking all the boxes for your garden variety teen “deadly disease” drama (see first paragraph) – but there’s something a little more endearing here than normal.

First, there’s Schwarzenegger, who defies the stigma of his famous father’s wooden acting abilities, offering a rather likeable performance. Patrick has a lot more range than “AH-nold,” and despite inheriting Dad’s enormous teeth, he appears to possess some of that “Kennedy charm” and looks from his mother’s side of the family. The kid’s got a future in film if he can develop those acting skills.  Second, Midnight Sun strays a little from the “teen drama” formula by toning down the melodrama. Yes, there are tragic events to unfold, but we aren’t subjected to a weepy and drawn out march to that conclusion, deferring to a subtler approach. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Bela Thorne’s pleasant performance, also showcasing of her beautiful voice. Third (and I hope this doesn’t come across as a bona fide “spoiler”), Katie and Charlie do not “seal the deal” as kids do in so many other films like this, making it more innocent than most teen romance dramas. Honestly, I didn’t miss it, and avoiding the cliché does not detract from the story.

All pleasantries aside, Midnight Sun is, after all, a teen fantasy with all those sappy elements that make teen girls cry and swoon. There is an audience for such content, and even though Midnight Sun is a little more pleasant than most teen dramas, it isn’t for everybody nor perfect by any stretch.


Midnight Sun Trailer

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