A Walk to Remember

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This one is syrupy enough to suck the whole state of Vermont dry.
★½
Movie Review #1,061

walk_to_remember

Distributed by Warner Bros. Drama, Romance. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements, language and some sensual material. Released January 25, 2002. Directed by Adam Shankman. Screenplay by Karen Janszen, from the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Starring Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote, and Daryl Hannah.

A brief note to the reader: I am returning to reviewing mostly older movies now, since it has become increasingly difficult to find the time and money to visit the movie theater on a regular basis. I suppose this is a better idea, anyhow, because let’s be honest: a Netflix date is just as good as dinner and a movie, and it’s far cheaper and far less time-consuming.

You can’t go wrong with Nicholas Sparks. His books have been adapted into eleven different films so far, seven of which have been released over the last seven years. His movies have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 24%, with all but one of them falling somewhere between 8% and 32%; the outlier is “The Notebook”, whose middling score of 52% seems almost too good to be true. And yet despite the quality of these films, as well as the fact that most are released during the dump months of January and February, the films inspired by his books have reeled in a total of nearly $890 million worldwide.

The man practically gets away with murder, and there’s nothing that makes that more evident than the lasting popularity of “A Walk to Remember”. It was released 14 years ago and only managed to reach #3 at the box office, but somehow, it’s become something of a cult classic in the time since. That’s to say that it is better “remembered” than Sparks films that grossed nearly twice as much, such as “Nights in Rodanthe” (2008) or “The Best of Me” (2014). How the film managed to succeed so well is beyond me, but I guess Father Time is the only man alive who can polish a turd.

I guess it was a bit of a mistake to tell my ex-girlfriend that I hadn’t seen “A Walk to Remember”, because I wouldn’t have ended up watching it if I hadn’t. It’s not that I don’t like syrupy “chick-flicks.” I think they can be quite amusing, especially when the amusement isn’t intended. “A Walk to Remember” is a prime example of that. The dialogue is a choppy bastardization of how real people speak in normal conversation, both by writing and by performance. Just as laughable is the soundtrack. There is some good music here, and most of it is from the Christian rock band Switchfoot. Unfortunately, those songs that we actually enjoy are recycled several times throughout the movie. What’s more, the rest of the soundtrack highlights the exact sort of music from the early 2000s that we were all glad we’d forgotten: post-grunge and alternative rock. Not the enjoyable kind that we got from bands like Linkin Park, but rather the kind you get from unknown bands like Cold and Fuel. I like the idea of using up-and-coming bands in teen movies, because young people truly do like to listen to new artists. But when you look back on a movie and realize that those bands never even became famous, it’s a little embarrassing.

I cannot judge how faithful “A Walk to Remember” it is to the book on which it is based, but having seen other Nicholas Sparks movies, I will attest to the fact that it adheres very faithfully to the formula that pervades Sparks’s filmography. Rebellious boy and goodie-two-shoes girl meet, try not to fall for each other, but end up doing so anyway. I’m not good at predicting movies. My mother is, and I’m always amazed by it. But I suppose I amazed myself when I was watching this very movie, so much that I felt like my mother. I was predicting the movie left and right. It wasn’t even twenty minutes into the movie that my ex-girlfriend decided to ask me if I had actually seen it.  “This is my first time watching it,” I responded, “and yet it seems I have already seen it a million different times, under a million different titles.”

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