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A Walk To Remember

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG (Thematic Elements, Language and Some Sensual Material)

Running Time: 102 minutes

Starring: Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote, Daryl Hannah

Screenplay by: Karen Janszen
Based on the novel by: Nicholas Sparks

Directed by: Adam Shankman

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Adam Shankman, Mandy Moore and Shane West, Audio Commentary with Author Nicholas Sparks and Screenwriter Karen Janszen, Mandy Moore Music Video "Cry", Cast & Crew, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (29 Scenes)

Released: July 9th, 2002

 

 

No, teen romances aren't dead just yet (hey, maybe it's time you purchase the first part of my teen romance/insecuritiy saga, Alter The Stars - The World Of Possibility!), but I still see signs of life in this genre. Granted, many teen based flicks have been bombs, but some more recent ones have been rather cheap to produce and have brought in some nice profits. One of those is "A Walk To Remember," which didn't score quite well with critics but was beloved by many of its moviegoing audience (I assume it was mainly 12-14 year old girls). Hey, it made more than Britney Spears' "Crossroads," by a few hairs, which was also released around the same time.

Given I've seen a ton of teen films and romantic films, I didn't know what to expect with "A Walk To Remember." I never read the book (nor have I read "Message In A Bottle" or seen the movie for that matter), but this seems like the type of movie that appeals to the pre-teen/early teenage set who are females: a story about unexpected love and the power it brings. I do like good character dramas and don't mind romantic love stories, but I'm sure I speak for very few guys when I say that. I suppose it's more female minded, but I did enjoy the movie overall, which surprised me. This movie is aimed for a certain audience and isn't for everyone, but if you're slightly interested, you should give it a shot.

The plot of this flick revolves around a local preacher's daughter, Jamie (Mandy Moore). She's a bit nerdy and plain, and since this is high school in the movies, for those reasons she's "weird" and unpopular. Enter Landon Carter (Shane West). He's the hip popular guy who loves taking risks, until his involvement in a terrible accident with a fellow peer has him doing community service... and changing for the better. Do-gooder Jamie and Landon start to talk. While Landon dislikes her at first, it's love... but her father disapproves, Landon becomes an outsider and Jamie gets big, bad cancer. Whatever will happen in this tale of teen romance?

I guess you have your usual teenage elements in this saga: different kinds of broken families, people learning new insights from other people who they've labeled as freaks/outcasts, people changing, falling in love, finding your heart, learning to accept other people, themes of trust, themes of faith and all that with tension and build-up. Somehow though... it works for the most part. And that's good, actually. I guess since I'm so used to seeing those themes in your typical Hollywood movie before (not to mention writing about them - and still writing about them - for a very long period of time and putting them in so many different ways in a book saga), it was refreshing that it worked for me, even if it's not all original. But I guess you have to blame the source material for that, right? Still, every idea is used in some form or another over and over. You can't help that.

The script is still good for what it is though. Janszen has very good and very strong dialogue, plus some interesting scenarios. Unfortuantly, I felt some aspects of the movie were a bit rushed and could have used more to them. A lot of the major parts are instant moments that we're just supposed to along with, wrapped in very tiny development. I get a little annoyed when movies do that. How Landon becomes an outcast overnight due to Jamie, how instantaneous he falls for Jamie and their relationship, the build-up... there are some sweeter moments, but I found most of them really overdone and cheesy. It's all a little too much too fast, not to mention awkward. Like Landon's father... we get the idea there's no strong male influence in his life and has resentment toward him. The set-up to that is predictable, the middle act to that subplot is what you'd expect and then the accepting finale where Landon loves his father (OH NO A SPOILER TO THIS MASTERPIECE, PLEASE FORGIVE ME!). I guess the viewer buys into it... but there's really not much to it, especially since it feels like an added piece of fluff and is so stereotypical in content and how it plays out. There are also some pretty corny and clichéd moments too for your enjoyment. What I also found a bit annoying was right toward the end... the movie is not told in a narrative style or a flashback, but it still makes it a point for Landon to narrate what happened after his own life changing event.

Perhaps what really pushed the film and made it stronger, more interesting and more believable for myself was the incredibly uniform and rather fabulous acting. I must admit I was expecting some pretty standard stuff here, but the actors are really, really good here. There are some supporting characters, but much of the film is kept to Jamie, Landon and Jamie's father to an extent. Daryl Hannah is rather solid in her small performance as Landon's mother, but it's a good fit. Peter Coyote, with his strong stance, affable appearance and stern drawl is wonderfully solid as Jamie's father. So finally, you have the two leads themselves: Mandy Moore and Shane West. Each are terrific, sharing amazing chemistry.

I actually enjoy Shane West's work and acting style, as I think in his career so far he's made some diverse choices. He conveys some true emotion here and a convincing, if not winning performance as Landon. Despite the slickness in the character, the performance has heart and we really believe that Landon opens up. So that leaves up with teen pop singer Mandy Moore. Many musical artists should stick with their day jobs... as indicated in breakthrough performances and then those same artists making more movies. Moore has had some previous work (a small role as a bitch in 2001's "The Princess Diaries"), but this is her moment to shine and her leading role. It is quite evident in this movie that Moore is a natural actress. She knows how to play the role of Jamie and keep to it. Among her moment of joys, there is sadness within her character which is brought across with elegance and without flaw. There is also good emotions she puts on and has good line deliveries. She really did inhabit the character. I must admit I was a bit skeptical of Moore's performance before watching the movie, but she won me over. I certainly won't mind that she keeps acting. In fact, I look forward to it.

And last but not least, is director Adam Shankman. If you read my review, you must know I was no Wedding Planner fan. Still, the former dance choreographer has a passion for movies, and I respect that very much. Thankfully, Shankman's follow-up is a much stronger, cohesive and much more enjoyable effort. He's no Richard Linklater yet, but I think in the future, as he makes more movies and gains more experience, he'll be a director to watch out for and will cause some stirs. He has some nice shots here and an overall good feel to the story. It may be slightly uneven, but it's well paced and keeps moving forward. But I do have a complaint: the book took place in 1958, and the way the movie makes it seem, it could have taken place then too. However, that route is ditched and can take place "anytime" thanks to some pop culture references and a wide variety of 1990s and recent music (so I'm assuming "anytime" means post 1994). Still, it felt like it was the 1950s somewhat to me... damn conforming teen stuff!

On a different note, I was actually personally surprised that this movie was rated PG. I assume it treads on the water of being PG and PG-13, but the MPAA, as crazy as they always are with their standards and guidelines, awarded "A Walk To Remember" PG. Is it a more family friendly teen romance drama, then? A little, I guess. I'm sure it'll still mainly appeal to girls in puberty and who are fans of Mandy Moore, but I don't know if ratings disattract audiences (I don't think so, but different strokes for different folks), but given some of the content here, it seems PG-13ish. The word "shit" is used a couple of times, not to mention some highly sexual gestures and the "virgin Mary" joke. For parents who happen to be reading this and are concerned about what your kids see when you gather in front of the television, I thought I'd mention this as a heads-up.

So if you want a sappy romance that you've seen in different forms dozens of times already, like the actors (or Mandy Moore) or need to see every single film aimed at teens, "A Walk To Remember" is worth checking out. It can be a little slow, but it's an overall solid effort from many angle and one of the best flicks I've seen lately aimed for that teenage demographic.

 

Presented in the rather wide aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (I'd think 1.85:1 would have suited this film better, but that's me), "A Walk To Remember" features a pretty strong though constantly flawed anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a good deal of nicks, blemishes, pieces of dirt and other little annoyances featured on the print. The abundance of those get somewhat annoying and do interfere. Warner, who can be a bit notorious with the halo effect (those darklined edges around anything on screen), is rather notorious here. There's not a crazy amount, but there sure is a lot of it to be found.

Don't worry, there's more flaws. There is an excess of shimmering and noise in this transfer which really got to me. It's downright annoying. Also annoying and quite noticable is the TREMENDOUS amount of grain on the transfer.The movie can be a bit soft at times, but it's really, really grainy. I don't know if this was Shankman's intended look for the film, but I think the grain hurts it all anyway. The film also struggles tremendously during the scenes that are darkly lit or take place at night. They are fuzzy, faded and pale. It just doesn't look proper and comes off looking pretty crappy.

Still, despite those two paragraphs of bashing, the rest of the picture is fine. Fleshtones are pretty good, color saturation is bold and also pretty good, while detail is quite nice. Black levels are fine too. Overall, a pretty good transfer, and there are some scenes that do look sharp. But in the end, it's a bit above average, but it could have been so much more.Too bad that its constant flaws really become distracting and get in the way.

 

I found the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track pretty disappointing. This movie has some great, though few, opportunities for surrounds and fails to capitalize on them, which really does suck. This mix is too straightforward to my taste, and doesn't seem like much thought was put into its elements and how it was gone about. Surrounds are particuarly weak, such as the opening scene with the jump and the car chase. The film uses a lot of songs too, be it alternative, rock or pop... and the way the music is mixed feels rather confined, limited and very center-ish. .1 LFE is nothing special at all, while there is some hiss that can be heard throughout a lot of the movie. Still, dialogue is clear and crisp, it's just that this mix brings no extra life into the movie when it has the chances. So much could have been way more effective. A shame, really. Also included is the same 5.1 track but with a French dub, English closed captions, English subtitles, Spanish subtitles and French subtitles.

 

On the very cool side, "A Walk To Remember" packs a strong showing (though not majorly stuffed) extras. The main thing here is that we have two very different, but very strong commentaries. The Audio Commentary with Director Adam Shankman, Mandy Moore and Shane West is pretty good. It's not always screen specific, but it's actually a lot of fun. The three share a lot of laugh and a ton of production stories. Shankman leads this track and tells very informative things about making the movie and things from the book while Shane West and Mandy Moore chime in with their own things. All three are passionate about the movie, which is always great. I will admit though Moore seems too slap happy, always going "I love that!" or "Awesome!" Still, I suppose it's good she has fun.

The second Audio Commentary with Author Nicholas Sparks and Screenwriter Karen Janszen is one of my favorite kinds of tracks: the author of the original source material and the screenwriter together talking about the adaptation and most importantly, the story itself and the characters. This is a track worth going through for a number of reasons. It's very informative, it explains a lot of background and what each writer hoped to accomplish with the same story and how things went. The two are very talkative with a lack of dead space (quite excellent) and have good interaction between one another. Sparks seems happy with the changes made for the movie, which is nice. Still, if you're interested in writing and the art of storytelling, this is really worth listening. One of the best tracks I've heard lately, actually.

Rounding the disc off are your Cast & Crew filmographies, the Music Video for Mandy Moore's "Cry" (I must admit this is a pretty nice song) and finally, your standard Theatrical Trailer in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and two channel sound. On a different note, I heard some stuff about this movie and deleted scenes, but they're not here. Hmm.

 

"A Walk To Remember" is a bit fluffy and a tad bit unoriginal, but it still works, and that's what matters. This is a pretty good DVD that does please. It's worth a rental, but worth the purchase for fans of the film (such as my friend Austen, who saw it five times in the theater and has the ticket stubs to prove it!). While the transfer will annoy home theater buffs and the sound mix is a bit bland, the extras help make up for this and justify the price. Now let me get corny: This is certanly "A Walk" that you'll "remember" if you love teen romance flicks. Okay, forget that was pretty bad.