Starring: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger and Rob Riggle
Directed By: Scott Speer
Running Time: 90 minutes
Open Road Films
“Midnight Sun” has the makings of an eye-rolling romantic drama. Katie Price (Thorne) suffers from an incredibly rare genetic disorder that makes sunlight deadly. So she spends her days and nights trapped inside her home, pining for a life outside those confines. For years she’s been watching the cute neighbor boy, Charlie (Schwarzenegger), that she wishes she could talk to, but instead she’s only been able to communicate with her lone friend, Morgan (Quinn Shephard) and her widowed father, Jack (Riggle). It’s set-up like some predictable coming-of-age tale with a terrible “Boy in the Plastic Bubble” twist lurking on the horizon. Thankfully it doesn’t play out like that.
There’s a happy middle ground that this film finds itself in. It’s caught between the polar extremes that we’ve seen in films like “The Space Between Us” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” and it’s not a bad spot to be in. It’s able to use a lot of familiar tropes, some of them annoying, to keep the story flowing along, but it takes a lot of the stronger assets, like unpredictability and charming leads. It’s also hard to hate a movie with a lot of good intentions.
“Midnight Sun” is a movie I would generally nitpick to death, but it managed to take me out of my sardonic element. It isn’t a great love story, but it’s still a worthy entry into the teen romance genre because of its broader message on love and life. I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t my favorite genre because of how overly sappy it usually is, but I sometimes find myself forgiving the fatal flaws because of how enjoyable the characters are to watch. And two of the main cast members in this film are surprisingly strong.
Thorne, who I’ve only seen in “Blended,” which honestly isn’t saying much, is quite magnetic as the mousey Price. Price’s disease has matured her character beyond simplistic teenage angst when it comes to the film’s conflict. Riggle, who’s known for his comedic bit parts in films and shenanigans on “Fox NFL Sunday,” legitimately shines here in a role that doesn’t require him to be overly dramatic by dipping into his real-life military experience. He’s a sympathetic father dealing with a horrific circumstance, by wearing a smile on top of his heavy heart. However, everyone else seems like a filler. Schwarzenegger, whose last name should be self-explanatory, is slightly believable in his role, but he comes off as wooden. There are also moments where he smiles and looks like the spitting image of his father, which nearly took me out of the film multiple times.
“Midnight Sun” follows some predictable beats in terms of character growth throughout the film. There’s nothing unique about the relationship that develops on-screen, but their likability is nearly off the charts. You forget about the casual, and sometimes sloppy, narration because of how much enjoyment you get out of spending time with Katie and her close inner circle. “Midnight Sun” doesn’t reach any new highs or lows, but its good enough excuse for those who want to shed a tear or feel something warm in their hearts.