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‘Midnight Sun’ review: Contrived tear-jerker

Bella Thorne has musical talent -- and a

Bella Thorne has musical talent -- and a serious illness -- in "Midnight Sun." Credit: Open Road Films / Ed Araquel

PLOT An isolated girl with extreme sensitivity to sunlight falls for a popular boy.

CAST Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle

RATED PG-13 (mild language and suggested sexuality)


BOTTOM LINE New medical problem, same “Love Story.”

Katie Price, the beautiful teenage invalid in “Midnight Sun,” has found love with Charlie Reed, a high-school athlete, but she may not have long to enjoy it. Katie has a rare disease, called XP, that makes her severely, perhaps fatally, sensitive to sunlight. As the film reminds us, XP, or xeroderma pigmentosum, is a real genetic disorder. It’s the only thing we’re willing to believe in this contrived tear-jerker based on a little-known Japanese film and directed by Scott Speer (“Step Up All In”).

Starring Bella Thorne as Katie and Patrick Schwarzenegger (son of Arnold) as Charlie, “Midnight Sun” is a photogenic fantasy with little thought toward realism or dramatic substance. The film doesn’t care about Katie’s disorder, of course, any more than “Love Story” cared about the unnamed disease that made Ali MacGraw’s Jenny so terminally beautiful. Something similar will happen to Katie, but even that fate doesn’t have enough of a swoon factor for “Midnight Sun.” Katie must also be a potential pop music sensation.

That’s how Katie and Charlie meet. With permission from her dad (an endearing Rob Riggle), Katie spends the occasional evening busking at the local train station. Charlie, wandering alone on graduation night — he’s one of those handsome, popular guys who turns moody at parties — follows his ears to Katie. They’re co-smitten, and a proper date is arranged with help from Katie’s frisky friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard).

“Midnight Sun” aims to be a vehicle for its two stars, but between this bloodless boy and the sheltered girl, there isn’t a single spark of electricity.

Charlie, ever-supportive, takes Katie to nearby Seattle and encourages her to play guitar on a street corner. With her first strum, pedestrians begin flocking to her. This, more than any kiss or canoodle, seems to be the payoff moment in “Midnight Sun.” We know that Katie is destined for the one place where she can live forever: YouTube.

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