Movie review: Warning: Teen melodrama of "If I Stay" may induce sugar coma

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

"If I Stay" is like "Twilight" meets "It's a Wonderful Life" without the vampires and angels.

The movie is based on a young-adult novel by Gayle Forman, as are most movies that are not based on comic books. This bears the question: Are young adults the only adults who read novels?

Whether you're a young adult or a too-old-for-young-adult-fiction adult who enjoys them anyway, "If I Stay" will deliver the young-adult tearjerker love story you crave. (It's not good, but there's a blurb for the movie poster right there.)

Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a Portland teenager. She's got two loving ex-rocker parents (Joshua Leonard and Mireille Enos) who are supportive of her dreams to play the cello. She's got a cool younger brother who listens to Iggy Pop. And she's got a high school boyfriend (Jamie Blackley) in a rock band that's about to blow up.

Then her family is involved in a car crash. Mia arises, apparently unscathed, only to discover she's having an out-of-body experience. Her body is having an in-a-coma experience. Her recent life flashes before her as she must decide, should she stay or should she go?

I don't mean to be a grouch or a cynic, but "If I Stay" sure does lay it on thick with the Hallmark stuff. It's a little rock 'n roll around the edges, which makes the saccharine stuff even harder to stomach.

Director R.J. Cutler - whose history is in TV and documentaries including "The September Issue" - does benefit from the solid casting of Moretz, although even she can't save the cheesiness of that "no one can see me" stuff.

The cool parents are, well, cool, and there is some emotional tug there when all involved are fighting for their lives. The central romance does seem lifted from a junior-high diary. Most high school romances don't get torn apart by the rigors of rock band touring.

"If I Stay" was a best-seller, so there are sure to be fans who are anxious to see this on the big screen, but unless you've got a major sweet tooth, it's too sappy for mass consumption.

"If I Stay"

2 stars out of 4

Opens Friday