The Last Song posterUnfortunately, Miley Cyrus's latest big screen adventure The Last Song looks like a better movie than it is. There's a curious dichotomy about her singing/acting that tends to lean in the opposite direction than these artists generally tend to go. I mean, she's got a great voice for singing, but maybe not so much for acting. If that makes any sense. But she's super-famous, which unfortunately is why the movie was made.I have nothing against her, but it's hard to imagine someone with her performing ability landing a leading role in a feature film. Nevertheless, her star power has commanded no less than the screen presence of film veteran Greg Kinnear who, sadly, is horribly miscast. Or at least it seems so for the first hour or so of the movie.Miley plays Veronica Miller, a teenage girl rebelling against everything involved with spending some time with her dad in his beach house. The movie is a little hard to figure out at first, because when Veronica ("Ronnie") and her kid brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) get dropped off by their mother (Kelly Preston) at the beginning of the movie, Jonah's thrilled, Ronnie pouts like an angry 13-year-old and won't talk to dad, and mom explains her behavior like she's dropping them off for the weekend just like usual.I'll just explain something here so you won't spend the first half of the movie totally confused. They divorced three years earlier, after which dad moved from New York to the beach in Georgia and apparently never visited. This is why the kids are learning for the first time that he lives on the beach.[caption id="attachment_79623" align="alignleft" width="326" caption="Southern hospitality. No wonder Ronnie's so excited about going to Georgia!"]Southern hospitality. No wonder Ronnie's so excited about going to Georgia![/caption]Why is Jonah so happy, and not the least bit uncomfortable? Why doesn't mom seem apprehensive at all about plopping them down at their absentee father's house for the first time in three years? I don't know. Bad writing, I guess.So anyway, something comes out later in the movie that reveals the reasons behind his premature departure, but it comes after such a glut of ham-handedly manufactured emotional scenes that it only serves to solidify the movie as an unrelentingly shameless tear-jerker. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love the occasional tear-jerker. I loved The Notebook, I loved Message In A Bottle (both written by Nicholas Sparks, like this one), and I have a recurring weakness for the romantic comedy, but evidently the romantic drama is just not so much my thing. Those of you who saw Dear John a couple months ago will find the location and much of the plot identical, although I should mention that's not a criticism, just an observation. They all have the same writer, after all.Greg Kinnear and Bobby Coleman in The Last Song.So here's the plot in 100 words Ronnie and Jonah are reuniting with dad after three years of absence. Ronnie is unable to forgive him for his absence and spends the first 30 or 40 minutes of the movie treating him with a level of disrespect that made me unable to invest any emotion in her character for the entire movie. She was as bad as Sylvester Stallone's kid in Rocky V, remember that? Man that kid needed a smack! Although I should mention that the problem is not so much the writing, it's not Miley's acting ability, it's the fact that Greg Kinnear just can't play a bad father. He's too good. We learn later that that isn't what he's supposed to be doing, but we're led to believe that for the whole first half of the film, which is why it's so confusing, and also why Ronnie comes off as such an intolerable little punk.Dad just wants to reconnect and act like nothing happened, as do Jonah and mom, but Ronnie is having none of it. It's a set-up that paves the way for all kinds of real drama, but instead the movie just keeps handing us one big, fake set-up after another. Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth in The Last Song.Will (Miley's real-life boyfriend Liam Hemsworth), a surfer with model good looks (think Channing Tatum from Dear John) runs into her on the beach and knocks her milkshake all over her while his beach bum girlfriends laugh. Next she's camping out on the beach with a flashlight, protecting a nest of turtle-eggs from raccoons. Dad just happens to have the number for the local aquarium on the wall by the phone for just such an emergency. And wouldn't you know it? Will volunteers at the aquarium and shows up to spend nights with her guarding the eggs. Nice!If the script-manipulation had stopped there to focus on something actually happening in the movie I wouldn't have a problem, but it doesn't even slow down. Will's ex-girlfriend, or something, threatens Ronnie if she doesn't stay away from him, and then frames her for shoplifting. Later the same girl gets treated like a piece of trash by her new jerkoff boyfriend and needs Ronnie's help. Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus in The Last Song.Next Ronnie's reading Tolstoy, who Will can quote off-hand in Russian. Right. Next, it turns out he's stupid, crazy rich. Ronnie doesn't mind, and neither would I!Then we're given a dream-date montage that looks like it was made from b-roll dropped into a template. Something that would come for free with iMovie or something. Will's kiss turns Ronnie from a frog into a princess. That's interesting, at least. He turns out to have a history with women, but has a painful secret that would defend him for it if it wasn't such a cheat. Anyway, you get the idea.There are number emotional scenes in the film that fall as completely flat as emotional scenes are really capable of doing in the movie. I'm reminded of similar scenes that Brendan Fraser tried to do in Journey to the Center of the Earth a couple years ago. Similary, Hemsworth just doesn't have the acting chops to get them off the ground, and when the town's suspicion that Ronnie's father burned down the local chuch, it's real explanation, and the history behind the Miley Cyrus and Greg Kinnear in The Last Song.divorce and his disappearance all come out, the movie's never able to save itself.But despite the avalanche of cheats pouring forth from the script, there is a story there and I'm glad to see Miley Cyrus branching out a bit and trying something a little different. Five years ago Anne Hathaway wanted to get out of her Princess Diaries and Nicholas Nickleby roles and do more mature films, so she did a little-known urban drama called Havoc in 2005, there was briefly some big hoopla about the former Disney star going topless in a movie, and now look at her. Nudity isn't necessary, but it was a big sign to the world that she was done with the kid stuff, and look what happened! She went from The Princess Diaries 2 to Havoc to Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada, etc., and there's no end in sight. Here's hoping that The Last Song is a sign of better things to come from Miley!The Bean MeterThe Man.