A Walk To Remember Movie Review

A Walk to Remember can and will be known best as "The Mandy Moore Project," the first feature where the popular teen singer stars on the big screen. She is the focal point of the marketing, the reason that most kids will see the movie, and the one player to be under the microscope. Luckily for Moore, and the film, her flaws are few, as she slides easily into one of the more interesting teen roles in recent adolescent films, as the originality of her character, her well-metered performance, and director Adam Shankman's lively delivery lift this movie above most of its counterparts.

The film may look like a relative to the Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicle She's All That (1999), but it's more like a cousin to Robert Mulligan's The Man in the Moon (1991). The story begins predictably enough: Landon (Shane West), a young teen sowing his oats through his high school years, is forced to take on charity work after orchestrating a stupid stunt that nearly paralyzes a kid. While mopping up hallways and tutoring youngsters, he comes across Jamie Sullivan (Moore), a level-headed duckling (not so ugly), with a good heart and religion at her core. If this were Prinze pap, Landon would spruce her up and show the world what it's been missing. Instead, in this Karen Janszen adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel, Jamie stays true to herself, and the shy girl has a life-changing effect on the guy.

Although that's a neat narrative twist on its own, Shankman (The Wedding Planner) takes careful patience to develop the relationship -- first the couple are cynical combatants, then friends, then inseparable romantics, struck by true first love. The pace gives West and Moore the opportunity to grow into their roles and each other, and by the time he's winning her over, helping her accomplish wonderful moments on her "life's to-do list," the audience is really pulling for them to enjoy the wonder of their affections.

Speaking of an audience, the primarily female crowd audibly oooh'd and aaah'd through many parts of the film, marvelling at how two polite, well-meaning kids can fall for each other amidst single-parent environments and pressure from friends. Janszen deserves credit in skillfully spacing out certain conversations between the two, so when details are called back later in the film, as contrived as they may be, there's an effective mood of surprise and romanticism. She also avoids hammering us over the head with the cuteness of it all, keeping a quiet tone that is appreciated.

The film (which, with its Carolina setting, can feel a little Dawson's Creeky) does suffer a minor trip-up with a needlessly long musical number within the school play (Moore's not much of a lip sync-er). And things get considerably worse with a final act copout that can only be blamed on Sparks' sappy novel. Thankfully, however, Shankman, Janzsen, and the two leads keep the drippy plot point as unsentimental as possible, while still dealing to an audience that would like a good cry. There are many filmmakers out there that would, and will, handle such an egregious chance at tear-jerking with much less dignity.

But it's that first half of the movie -- the coming of age for both main characters -- that shines, filling the screen with wistful optimism, puppy love, and some occasionally smart dialogue. It injects some peripheral entertainment by having West's Landon try to earn the respect of Peter Coyote, playing Jamie's Dad and the local minister (it's good to see that Coyote has work other than just the voice guy at the Oscars). And the fact that Jamie is a good Christian while not being an unrealistic, religious zealot is a welcome component. We've probably seen too many films where the easiest thing for a teen to do when faced with faith is rebel against it.

While some of the clichés are there, A Walk to Remember has a freshness and sincerity that can wind its way into many viewers' hearts, especially in a less hardened, post-World Trade Center universe. It has its faults, but it is a kind, unapologetic, sweetheart of a movie, and Mandy Moore leaves a positive impression. Teenage girls will love -- repeat, love -- this movie... and the rest of us should enjoy it too.

DVD viewers get -- count 'em -- two commentary tracks to take on this Walk, one from Moore, West, and director Shankman, the other from Novelist Nicholas Sparks and screenwriter Karen Janszen. Obviously they're as different as night and day -- but they are both reasonably interesting (the whole film was shot on Dawson's Creek sets, explaining that Creeky feeling), considering how straightforward the movie is on the whole.

Coyote eyes bunny.

Comments

Nadia101's picture

Nadia101

I adore this movie. It is a beautiful story. It is never shocking when I see a bad review for this film because they are all written by 50 year old men who appreciate violence and sex much more than a pure story of love. There are artistic decisions a director and actor must make in order to play a role and all your so called problems with the movie are clearly explained in the audio commentary which I highly doubt you would ever try and even watch due to the fact that you seem to be lacking the one thing that this movie tries to convey. FAITH. And I'm not talking about that religious crap. What's wrong with trying to tell a hopefull story? You obviously seem to look for perfect special effects and audio timing.But whatever, I'm not going to try and convince you of anything. Your way of thinking has alrady corrupted you. The hope is gone.

8 years 3 months ago
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otnip89's picture

otnip89

I would have o completely disagree with you!!A Walk To Remember is a good movie!!people who say its a bad movie are people who are lonely in life and are sad because they probably have never been in love.and why should you ever be loved!?!gesh! anyways.ugh i love this movie! and i love Shane West.i wish i could find a guy like him.(well i guess his character he plays Landon Carter is the one i fell in love with.)aha.i wish i marry a man like him. But Shane West is amazing. and Mandy Moore's acting was pretty good too.her character was believeable.for her first leading role she did great.its a sad movie. made me cry.

8 years 2 months ago
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Daiyya's picture

Daiyya

This is the best mouvie ever!i love it!Shane and Mandy did a very good job...so in my opinion,everyone should watch this mouvie'cause we can learn a lot of things from it!

8 years 2 months ago
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sisey's picture

sisey

i love it very much, shane and mandy did it very good i love them.so everyone should watch that lovely movie. i love u both. i watch it 13times but it is less.......

6 years 3 months ago
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bankers10's picture

bankers10

My year 10 class brought this film in for their last RE lessons of the year and we all loved it. Dare I ask do the so called critics hate it because one of the main characters was a Chrstian and anything religious has to be slated?

6 years 3 months ago
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Alexis :)'s picture

Alexis :)

This is the best movie in the hole world i wish i could find me a man like that i would give anything..

4 years 9 months ago
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A Walk To Remember Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 2002

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