A Walk to Remember

The main difference between A Walk to Remember and any other teenage opposites attract romance is that the heroine never receives a makeover. Usually, the gorgeous actress dresses in drab clothing, but everybody except people in the film realize she is beautiful. At some point in the film, she loses the glasses, gets a new hairdo, and everybody gasps at her newfound beauty. Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore, The Princess Diaries, Bubble Boy) never undergoes said makeover. She is confident enough in herself that she cares little what people think of her. She wears frumpy clothes, no makeup, and is a nice person, so of course she is an outcast. She is also a Christian, and the daughter of the preacher. The fact that Jamie is Christian and A Walk to Remember has her espouse her values without completely taking over the film is probably the only refreshing element in an otherwise insipid movie.

Moore (who dyed her hair brown for the role) is taking a route unlike her other pop star counterparts. This is her first leading role, but she honed her skills on smaller parts in a variety of other movies. The good news? She does not stink. She still has a long way to go, but that will not matter to the intended audience of this film, teenage or younger girls. Jamie meets Landon Carter (Shane West, Ocean's Eleven, Get Over It), the 'bad boy' of the school. After an incident at the beginning of the movie, he is required to do things like tutor underprivileged children and participate in the school play in an attempt to get him to reform. Of course, Jamie does all these things. Shane reluctantly asks her for help. Her attitude towards life and people is unique to Shane, and he finds himself drawn to her more. As he gets closer to Jamie, he drifts further from his old circle of friends.

A Walk to Remember is directed by Adam Shankman (The Wedding Planner, Cosmo's Tale) and adapted by Karen Janszen (Digging to China, The Matchmaker) based on the best-selling book by Nicholas Sparks. Sparks also wrote Message in a Bottle, and this film adaptation is about the same in terms of quality. This movie is headed in one direction only, and it is not hard to guess what happens. As soon as it is clear what is happening, Shankman assaults the viewer with crass sentimentality, laying on the syrup as if the audience were a stack of pancakes. It just gets worse as the movie nears its conclusion. The cheesy music gets louder and the thoughtful glances get longer, but the movie is still not over. It just keeps going.

The main reason A Walk to Remember does not work is that the film moves too quickly in the beginning. Landon and Jamie essentially spend one afternoon together rehearsing lines before he begins to fall hopelessly in love with her. His personality change is too quick and not believable given his old personality. The entire movie hinges on the credibility of their relationship, and there is none. Shankman also has to exaggerate character traits in order to drive home the point that these two people are VERY different initially. Landon hangs with a dangerous, cool, popular crowd. They do legally ambiguous things at night, and sneer a lot. Jamie is a loner, yet an individual. Although the movie probably intends to portray her Christianity as part of what makes her sure of herself, it comes across that being Christian is what essentially makes her an outcast, as if one always goes with the other. Aside from that, Jamie and Landon are boring characters. They do not have enough depth to them. Even Jamie's father Rev. Sullivan (Peter Coyote, Erin Brockovich, Random Hearts) does nothing except disapprove of their relationship. It's nearly pointless watching A Walk to Remember, because it is the same as many other films before it.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements, language, and some sensual material.

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