POSTED April 17 2012

Zac Efron: Will Nicholas Sparks Help the Tiger Beat-nik Graduate to Grownup Roles?

Zac Efron, in front of the poster for The Lucky One

Hard enough to be a teenager and blunder into maturity as a private citizen. Harder still for a teen idol to prove his manhood professionally while fans watch. John Travolta did it. Likewise Johnny Depp. So, too did Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith and Ryan Gosling.

What did it for Gosling, onetime Mickey Mouse Club member (in a clubhouse that included Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake), was  The Notebook, based on the sincere and soggy romance from Nicholas Sparks. (The movie likewise helped Gosling’s co-star Rachel McAdams graduate from Mean Girl to sympathetic grownup.)

Since the success of The Notebook, an appearance in a Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation has been compulsory for young actors hungry for mature cred: Consider Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus in The Last Song, Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in Dear John. After winning performances in Hairspray, Me and Orson Welles and 17 Again — and an honorable failure with Charlie St. Cloud — Zac Efron is applying the Sparks-plug to his career with The Lucky One. It’s based on the novel about a soldier who, while bending to pick up an abandoned photo of a fetching blonde on the battlefield, dodges a lethal bullet.

This is a role that should enable Efron to demonstrate his dramatic chops. But honestly, there aren’t a lot of gifted light comedians his age and there are any number of Tiger Beat-niks, as my colleague Bruce Kirkland calls the cover boys of a certain teen magazine, who can fill the Sparks/Kleenex beat.

Thoughts on Sparks adaptations? (I enjoyed A Walk to Remember,  The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe in the same way I enjoy Douglas Sirk melodramas, am indifferent to the rest). Thoughts on Efron? (I think he can do what the young John Travolta did as well as what the young Tom Hanks did.) You?



  1. Gary Kramer says:

    I unashamedly love Love LOVE THE NOTEBOOK, and I also think the swoon-inducing Efron has the looks and the talent (he was great in ME AND ORSON WELLES) to break out as a leading MAN. But not in THE LUCKY ONE, an unfortunately bad film, marred by Efron’s lack of credibility as a Marine. While I applaud him for turning down the FOOTLOOSE remake, I can’t say this was the right alternative. Really, if I wanted to see Efron stretch as an actor, she should do it shirtless and reaching for the ceiling.

  2. I keep wanting to call NIGHTS IN RODANTHE, which I’ve yet to see, NIGHTS WITH RODAN. Or is that too terribly boomer-ish of me?

    Let’s hope that the presence of George C. Wolfe as director classed that picture up.

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