A Walk to Remember (2002) / Drama-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for language and some sensual material
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote, Darryl Hannah, Lauren German
Director: Adam Shankman
Screenplay: Karen Janzen (based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks)
Raise the amount of stars by one if you are female and another two if you are under 16.
This is yet another example of filmmaking by emotion over substance that makes my salty adult male mind gag from over-saturation of syrupy sweetness. If not for the quality of the film stock, I would have thought I turned on the Soap Channel, as this is the kind of schmaltz you just can't find almost anywhere else.
The plot for the purists: Shane West (Get Over It, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) plays Landon, a troubled youth in a North Carolina town, with lots of talent but little in ambition, spending most of his time hanging with his lowlife friends playing pranks and getting into trouble. One of his pranks has gone too far, resulting in the near death of a fellow student, and Landon is punished by having to perform community service, part of which includes participation in the latest play at the school. He has to rehearse lines with the local minister's daughter, Jamie (Moore, Chasing Liberty), a goody-goody but attractive girl that Landon and friends tease mercilessly because she's so damn angelic. Although she tells him not to fall in love with her, guess what?? There's a reason she doesn't want to get involved, and it's not just because she wants to remain a virgin until married. If you can't figure out the ending by now, maybe this movie is for you after all.
The biggest problem with the film is not the predictability or corniness. It's the very unrealistic portrayals of teenagers. Search all you want, but you'll never find a group of youth anywhere else but in movies like this. There's the delinquent rebel, who deep down is an intelligent and caring person. There's the little angel who sees the good inside him no matter what he does. There are the friends who disown him because he won't hang out with them anymore once he begins to fall for her. When Landon takes Jamie out, he takes her to a place no teenager would ever go, especially one who thinks he's such a bad-ass. He has a token Black friend, but this is the worst stereotype of the movie, as the creators think that he listens to rap and speaks like a homeboy because he is African-American, as if it's genetics that causes one to do such things even if he lives in predominantly white town.
A Walk to Remember could only be cornier if Mandy Moore had a permanent halo around her head. It's pure formula stuff, with lengthy musical interludes that serve no other purpose but to sell soundtracks, and to make sure Shane West becomes the apple in every teeny-bopper's eye strictly for marketing. It's about as obvious a film as there is these days, that would entertain only the most indiscriminating of audiences. A Walk to Remember is a manipulative endurance test, and one I would very much like to forget.
©2002 Vince Leo