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Movie Review: Midnight Sun

midnight sun posterIn the subgenre of “tragic teen romances where someone has a fatal disease,” Midnight Sun sets itself apart as one of the absolute worst. It makes saccharine treacle like The Fault in Our Stars look like masterpieces by comparison. It is trite, manipulative, boring, and stupid. People who complain about movies like The Last Jedi having “plot holes” should be forced to watch Midnight Sun as punishment so they can see what actual plot holes look like.

Our girl with a disease is Katie (Bella Thorne) and her disease is XP, or Xeroderma pigmentosum, a severe reaction to UV light which prevents her from going outside in the daytime. Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is the boy next door who she has been watching through her window every day. They finally meet one night and a whirlwind romance ensues. Her protective father (Rob Riggle) chides her for not telling her new boyfriend about her XP, but she doesn’t want to be “just a disease” to him, fearing he will treat her differently.

It’s just awful, and it’s a mess. The cast is charming enough, and Rob Riggle even shows off that he can do serious roles– just not this movie. He has to swallow lines where a doctor tells him that XP affects less than one in a million people, and he says, no joke, “Well that’s appropriate, because Katie is one in a million.” Nobody could’ve played these roles well, because they’re terrible.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s a musical. Katie is a guitar player and singer and songwriter, so we are frequently barraged by her songs. This wouldn’t be bad if this was Sing Street, Begin Again, or even Jem and the Holograms. Yes, this made me wistful for that trainwreck. At least the songs were decent, and the girls were actually good musicians. Bella Thorne here looks like she got exactly three guitar lessons, maybe only a half hour before shooting.

Now, I’m going to spoil the entire movie in order to explain just how awful this was. SPOILER ALERT — STOP READING HERE IF YOU CARE ABOUT SPOILERS.

So, you know her disease? So it’s supposedly so severe she can’t be exposed to any sunlight, right? (First, that’s not true– the movie is vastly overstating the effects of the disease) But we get the impression that she basically never leaves the house, even at night. First, how messed up is that? There’s being protective, and then there’s being irrational.

So she accidentally stays out all night with her new boyfriend, then realizes it’s almost sunrise, breathlessly tries to run home to escape the oncoming sunlight, and is hit with the briefest of rays!! And it ends up causing her brain to develop lesions and shrink and she’s going to die. From 2 seconds of sun at sunrise, which, technically, is some of the lowest UV light of the entire day.

Well, I guess if 2 seconds of sunrise can kill you, it makes sense how overprotective dad is, right? To not let you leave the house, like ever? And now, you’re cool with her staying out all night with her new boyfriend? Even after having a talk with them about curfew before they leave? So, you send a bunch of text messages and keep calling your daughter’s phone when she doesn’t come home, because you’re a super protective dad … and you don’t have “Find My Phone” enabled? And you live in this tiny town that is walkable in five minutes and can’t find her at the beach?

Also, let’s talk about your town. So many films work because they have such a perfect sense of their place and time. Midnight Sun? I don’t know where this town is, but it’s like straight out of Narnia or something.

The Pacific Northwest’s hottest small town is. . .  whatever the name of this town is that they never say. It has everything:
An old timey train station where Seattle is only a short ride away
A ticket booth man named Frank that everyone knows
A beach
A harbor where 18 year olds can get a summer job taking care of boats
Only one black person
A super modern hospital with doctors who just happen to specialize in the super rare disease your daughter has who make house calls to deliver bad news
A high school that lets seniors who have already graduated participate in swim meets
A bitchy cheerleader mean girl sterotype
An old timey ice cream shop managed by 18 year olds on a boardwalk with a carnival
Crying Rob Riggle
Multiple teenage parties happening every night
Every house in town probably costs at least half a million dollars
The ability to walk anywhere in the town in 5 minutes but everyone still drives anyway
Complete anonymity for people who don’t leave their houses
Amazing Chinese food delivery
No apparent jobs or sources of income for any adults

It’s truly a magical place.

And in the final ridiculous act of this film, with Katie dying from minimal sunlight exposure, she asks if she can go sailing with her boyfriend and watch the sunset with him. Apparently, we’re ok with her just committing suicide by sun, and, yeah, ok, because she’s gotta go sometime, amirite?

Then Rob Riggle gives an unforgivably bad speech after her funeral where he says he doesn’t blame the boyfriend, because all he ever wanted to do was make Katie happy, and he made her happier than she had ever been. EXCEPT HE KEPT YOUR DAUGHTER OUT ALL NIGHT AND SHE WAS KILLED BY 2 SECONDS OF SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE. But, yeah, sure, forgiveness and all that stuff. How very zen.

To believe this movie, you have to believe that Rob Riggle is simultaneously the most overprotective parent ever and also the most lackadaisical. You have to believe Katie’s XP is so serious 2 seconds of sunrise can kill her, but she should be able to watch the sunset with her boyfriend because her life isn’t really that precious anyway. You have to believe that a town like this exists anywhere but in fiction.

There’s suspending your disbelief, and then there’s Midnight Sun. 

With so many better movies out right now, including the charming Love, Simon aimed at a similar audience, there’s no reason to waste your time on this.

1/2 out of 5 stars

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