Even though "One Last Thing ..." is about a teenager who's guaranteed to die of cancer at the end of the film, it's surprisingly not that grim or maudlin. Instead, Alex Steyermark's follow-up to "Prey for Rock & Roll" allows characters to be flawed and often funny, in spite of the cruel hand life has dealt. The film wanders a bit trying to infuse a bit of spirituality into the proceedings, but it has its heart in the right place.
Sixteen-year-old Dylan (Michael Angarano), a terminal cancer patient, wants to finish his life with a bang ... by banging a supermodel that is. At the United Wish Givers press conference, he abandons his first wish to go fishing with football hero Jason O'Malley (Johnny Messner) and declares he wants to spend a weekend with supermodel Nikki Sinclair (Sunny Mabrey) instead.
Needless to say, his pals Slap and Ricky (Gideon Glick, Matt Bush) are stoked, but his mom Karen (Cynthia Nixon) is mortified. He raises the money to go to New York, where he intends to hook up with Nikki. While there, his condition worsens, he begins to hallucinate about his deceased father, and Nikki shoots him down. Apparently, she has guilt issues about an ex-boyfriend she had dumped just before he was killed in a car accident.
This secondary plot can be a little hard to take. Okay, we get it: Beautiful supermodels have problems and can be deep too. The filmmaker works in flashbacks about Nikki's former love through homemade prom night footage and her guilt-ridden, alcohol-soaked dreams. In a film that carefully balances the humorous and dramatic, these particular scenes feel blatantly manipulative.
Dylan is a charismatic yet realistic creation by writer Barry Stringfellow, who perfected the teen voice on youth-oriented TV series "Hang Time" and "Sweet Valley High." On one hand, Dylan has accepted his imminent death with good-natured optimism and even exploits his situation to get away with sharing his medicinal marijuana with his friends and manipulating his mother. At one point, when she balks at saying the F-word, he pleads, "Say it once before I go," until she gives in. On the other hand, Dylan can also be depressingly ruthless. When his exasperated mom asks, "What am I going to do with you?" he responds, "Bury me." Is it any wonder that he's embraced atheism?
A couple of wildly ridiculous moments -- like when the kids use Dylan's notoriety as the "wish kid" to get him into a night club or when O'Malley hooks the boys up with access to a strip joint -- aren't just plot points; they're retroactive wish-fulfillment for Stringfellow and/or Steyermark. It's nice to see that boys, no matter how sensitive the subject matter, will always be boys.
Even carefully handled, however, this film wouldn't be anywhere without its strong leads. Both Angarano and Mabrey have that sort of still screen presence that other actors gravitate to, and when they're together, it's easy to believe they share a kinship somehow.