"MIDNIGHT SUN" — 2 stars — Patrick Schwarzenegger, Bella Thorne, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard, Nicholas Coombe; PG-13 (some teen partying and sensuality); in general release
Scott Speer's "Midnight Sun" is the story of a teenage girl with a rare skin condition who can't be exposed to the rays of the sun, yet finds love. If it sounds a little familiar, technically "Midnight Sun" is a remake of a 2006 Japanese film, but you're more likely thinking of last year's "Everything, Everything," about a different teenage shut-in who couldn't go outside … yet finds love.
"Midnight Sun's" protagonist is Katie (Bella Thorne). Her condition is called xeroderma pigmentosum, which is a real disorder, though it seems a little exaggerated here. Katie has lived alone with her father Jack (Rob Riggle) ever since her mother died, and her primary connection to the outside world is her best friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard).
Katie is an aspiring musician and periodically convinces her father to let her hang out at the local train station after sunset to play her guitar for loose change. It's here she meets Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger — yes, Arnold's son), the local boy she's watched through her tinted bedroom window for many, many years. Charlie has a backstory, too — he's a swimmer trying to get into Cal-Berkeley — but his primary job is to stare lovingly at Katie.
Katie and Charlie hit things off right away and jump headfirst into a nighttime-only relationship, though Katie neglects to tell Charlie about her condition. They go to a party, where Katie gets to experience underage drinking for the first time, and once things really get going, Charlie takes Katie to Seattle for a musical dream date.
Unfortunately the date lasts a little too long into the wee hours, and things take a tonal hard left turn as "Midnight Sun" goes from lighthearted romance to serious drama. Apparently Katie's condition is terminal, and from here Speer's film twists into the kind of melodramatic tear-jerker Nicholas Sparks has honed to assassinlike perfection over the last couple of decades.
It's really too bad because "Midnight Sun" has its moments. Once they settle in, Thorne and Schwarzenegger have some decent chemistry, and Riggle and Shephard are both fun in their supporting roles. (Morgan's own romantic subplot might have made for an entertaining double date with the leads, but oh well.)
The trouble is that the late-film seriousness makes it all the more difficult to forgive the film's foundation of implausibility, which might not have mattered so much if "Midnight Sun" could have maintained its earlier tone.
It seems highly unlikely, especially given that Morgan is such a social butterfly, that Katie would have spent her entire adolescence in near-anonymous isolation since presumably once the sun went down she should be free to attend parties or other perfectly routine kid activities. Yet Katie's encounters with Charlie feel like she's experiencing the outside world for the very first time. If we do allow for the isolation, we run into other issues, such as how Katie learned to swim before taking a late night dip with Charlie.
Then again, the target audience for "Midnight Sun" probably won't care too much about its flawed internal logic. This is a movie designed to get people to cry. It's just too bad it has to default to a heavy life-or-death plot twist to achieve a legitimate emotional connection.
"Midnight Sun" is rated PG-13 for some teen partying and sensuality; running time: 91 minutes.