Written by: Karen Janszen, based upon the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Starring: Mandy Moore, Shane West, Peter Coyote, and Daryl Hannah
- Two commentary tracks, one with director Shankman and stars West and Moore, the other with writers Janszen and Sparks
- Mandy Moore music video
- Cast film highlights
- Theatrical trailers
Released by: Warner Home Video
My Advice: Skip it
A Walk to Remember, adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, relates the story of Landon (West), part of the “in” clique in his high school, and Jamie (Moore), the preacher’s moral daughter, and the love they come to share in the face of tragedy. Sound familiar? A little like Love Story perhaps? Well, it is. It’s very much like most romances, in fact, with very little to differentiate it.
[ad#longpost]The good news is that the film presents main character teenagers who are actually not annoying to hear speak. Most of their friends should drive right off a cliff, but Landon and Jamie are actually pretty cool, with brains, ethics, and goals. Jamie is a Christian who actually manages not to look evil, one-dimensional, hypocritical, or silly, though her father is a bit hard-nosed (but gets better). Moore’s character is also clear about liking herself for who she is, regardless of how often the “cool kids” make fun of her. That can’t hurt in today’s puerile and downright stupid teen movie market. For those of us sick to death of movies that are all about sex, drugs, sex, blood, and, oh yeah, sex, A Walk to Remember is almost a breath of fresh air.
The bad news is that Sparks and Co. seem to have fallen prey to the idea that for a movie to be “good,” it has to be lifeless, self-righteous, and sappy. This film manages more movie clichÃ©s in 100 minutes that I’ve ever seen: sick heroine, evil high school experiences, bad kid makes good, bad kid with a heart of gold, Jesus-freak who carries her Bible everywhere… I don’t have to worry about giving the plot away because you already know the plot–you’ve seen it before. Also, while we’re to believe that these two eighteen-year-olds love as deeply as Romeo and Juliet (only more mature), their love falls a bit flat. Okay, Jamie is a great girl, and Landon is trying to be good, but do they really love each other? We only have their word for it, even given Landon’s choice at the end of the film. During the commentary, screenwriter Janszen mentions focus groups several times…it’s clear from almost the first scene that this movie was carefully crafted by focus groups to appeal to a certain element in Western culture and to yank on our heartstrings. Far toocarefully crafted in that respect–all the life was zapped right out of it.
The acting by Mandy Moore is surprisingly good. Any carefully-cultivated pop princess who can pull off being the honest, sweet goody-goody has my vote. Kudos to her also for agreeing to appear without makeup or fancy hair-styles for nearly the entire film. She manages to be moral without moralizing, even when the script seems to want her to be off-puttingly superior. Coyote as her father turns in a solid job of being the ultra-Protestant who preaches love and forgiveness but lives judgement and strictness. His evolution over the period of the film is delightful to see. West as the male lead is lukewarm at best; he got little enough help from the script, but Moore and even Coyote can’t carry the film alone.
The features of this disc, however, are excellent. There are two different commentary tracks, one with Moore, West, and Shankman, and then another with Sparks and Janszen. While the commentaries do little to justify some of the creative choices made in the film’s creation, it’s nice to have them there; the disc’s producers tried. There’s also a music video starring Moore, of course, the original trailer, and cast film highlights. I can’t imagine what else they could have done except perhaps include snippets from Sparks’ original as a script-novel comparison.
The production values are standard, which is to say plenty good enough. The image quality was high, and the sound was clear and understandable. My only quibble here is that in places, the music nearly drowned out the speech–perhaps surprisingly not during the star Moore’s own songs, however.
The film was rather loosely adapted from Sparks’ novel. The movie takes place in the timeless present day, while the novel was set in 1958, for example. The other minor changes do not seem to alter the story excessively.
In conclusion, I really wanted to like A Walk to Remember. I just can’t. I wanted to see a movie that showed moral, likable characters, especially young people, in a situation that really tested their mettle and showed them prevail. I wanted to see gentleness, faith in something, and love succeed where brute force and selfishness cannot. I hate disliking movies–someone’s creative vision, their baby, and I hate feeling like I’m too Gen-X to believe in goodness. So it really is too bad that this isn’t the movie it could have been. Now audiences will be even more convinced that characters have to be “bad” or that morality isn’t good entertainment. Uber-sincere and earnest, but not deep enough to survive its own carefully constructed moralism, A Walk to Remember just isn’t, well, memorable, no matter how much we desperately want it to be.