Midnight Sun and the need for mediocre movies

Film critic Jonathan Malloy looks at why not every movie needs to be a hit

Paint me unamused when I looked Wednesday morning to see what releases would be coming to Kamloops’ theaters this week only to see the one film that I truly couldn’t wait to see, Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, not coming here or anywhere near my vicinity. So what did I decide to see this week? The new Bella Thorne tearjerker that my girlfriend wanted to see. I would like to say I was hesitant, but honestly the trailers made me more tempered than anything else. I mean it couldn’t stand up to the time and care put into years of stop animation Japanese dogs, so how can you even compare? You can’t and that is okay.

A recent trend seems to have surfaced lately where films are judged on a spectrum of either good or bad. You have your Mad Max: Fury Road and your Fifty Shades, but those films that rest in the middle are often seen as the worst of the bunch. The discussion around these mediocre films typically is spoken to an empty room as it can be hard to say something about a film that seems to have so little to say itself.

This is where Scott Speer’s Midnight Sun enters the picture. Staring Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger, yes there is a relation, it follows Thorne’s Katie as she meets a boy and falls in love. Oh and she also has a skin disease that will kill her if she so happens to look at a ray of sunshine. The movie never attempts to overexert its themes past the surface level of ‘wow that’s kind of sad’ to deliver really any meaning by its end. This lack of ambition would kill any momentum a film would normally carry and yet this movie somehow trucks along at a fine enough pace. This is possibly due to the father/daughter chemistry added by Rob Riggle’s performance or the fact that Bella Thorne can, at times, really make you feel for her character. It most certainly is not aided by the unfortunate performance of Schwarzenegger as Katie’s beau. He certainly attempts the sympathetic jock but is hung up on a cheesy (read manipulative) script and wooden delivery. From the editing to the cinematography there are many aspects that coalesce into what feels like a student film that was given the green light and suffers all the misgivings one would expect from that undergraduate wet dream.

What is unexpected is how much feeling they would pack into such a mishandled product. By the end I was having a hard time keeping away the tears myself. Yes the film is over-manipulative, but God damn if it isn’t effective in the way it tugs at those open heartstrings. Hushed crying drew on from the crowd as the credits played and it was astounding seeing these people be affected on such a level by a film that is flawed and by most accounts fairly bad, but held a certain emotional ‘umph’ to move these people. This is the power of films like this, like Mama Mia, those crappy Nicholas Sparks adaptations, the bargain bin Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn hook-up movies. They make people feel and isn’t that worth something?