A Walk to Remember (2002) starring Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote, Daryl Hannah, Paz de la Huerta, Nicholas Sparks adaptation directed by Adam Shankman Movie Review

A Walk to Remember (2002)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Mandy Moore and Shane West in A Walk to Remember

Sparks of Romance to Remember

Honestly, I enjoy movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks's novels, not something a bloke usually says, but there is something engaging about these romantic dramas that keeps you entertained but also smacks you in the face with a twist which can leave you feeling like your hearts been ripped out. But unfortunately the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks "A Walk to Remember" doesn't quite match up to the other adaptations of his novels such as "The Notebook" and "Nights in Rodanthe". It comes across more like an extended episode of a teen soap opera than a proper movie. It's "One Tree Hill" meets "Everwood" with a touch of "Beverly Hills 90210" whilst paying homage to "High School Musical". But despite all this and a serious amount of corny, cliche scenes "A Walk to Remember" has a charm about it which still makes it enjoyable and most likely very appealing to a teen audience.

In the coastal North Carolinian town of Beaufort, school rebel Michael Landon (Shane West - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) finds himself in trouble when a prank goes dangerously wrong. As punishment he is forced to help out with after school activities and also appear in the end of year play. Thrown together with Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore - The Princess Diaries), the beautifully angelic yet slightly dowdy daughter of the town's minister, Landon's rebel with out a care attitude slowly fades as a romantic spark forms between them, but romance is never straight forwards.

Mandy Moore as Jamie Sullivan in A Walk to Remember

Like so many adaptations of Nicholas Sparks's novels "A Walk to Remember" starts of quite routinely with a fairly predictable storyline where you have the standardized high school romance between the cool bad boy and the good church going girl, who manages to convert her bad boy boyfriend into a caring sensitive type. It's all been done many times before and unfortunately "A Walk to Remember" suffers a little in these earlier scenes because the characters are not strong enough to make it feel anything other than conventional.

But as is also typical of a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel "A Walk to Remember" shakes things up and turns predictability on its head. Sadly director Adam Shankman has failed to capitalize on this twist not hitting it home or capturing the emotional moment in such away that it forces you to reach for the tissues. Having not read the novel I do wonder whether the adaptation really captures the mood of the book as it doesn't feel quite right.

But the real issue I have with "A Walk to Remember" is that it is all too "Dawson's Creek" with all the characters feeling like they have been picked straight out of a teen soap opera as well as various story elements. I am sure this was intentional and probably works well for a younger audience who enjoy this style of drama but for me it just didn't quite gel. Don't get me wrong "A Walk to Remember" is very sweet, innocent and quite charming but lacks that gritty real life edge which I expected. What makes it worse and without going into specifics there is a scene towards the end of the movie which you can see coming a mile off and it's filmed in such a cheesy manner it felt like I was watching an episode of "Neighbours" and had to control myself from laughing.

It's not all bad and the casting of Shane West and Mandy Moore in the lead roles not only works well when it comes to making it feel all teen soapy but also that they are surprisingly convincing in their roles. West who went on to become Dr. Ray Barnett in "ER" does everything you expect from your typical teenage rebel but it's his transformation, which although is very stereotypical, is what makes a very two dimensional character more interesting. Yes even I was championing him to change the opinions of those around him.

But the real star of "A Walk to Remember" is for me is Mandy Moore who not only looks like a good church going girl but has a very natural air about her performance as if she's not actually acting but living the role. It's this and that she is quite adorable, with a voice of an angel that makes her performance stand out and turns "A Walk to Remember" from being an unmemorable movie to one which has its moments.

Surprisingly with a cast which also features Daryl Hannah, Peter Coyote and Paz de la Huerta all these stars are subbed to supporting performances whilst Shane West and Mandy Moore take centre stage and do a more than adequate job of turning "A Walk to Remember" into the charming movie that it is.

What this all boils down to is compared to other movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks's novels, "A Walk to Remember" certainly feels like it suffers from a director who has failed to relay the emotional impact of the storyline to the silver screen. It also feels like it primarily targets a teen audience who enjoy the simplicity and innocence of teen soaps as it's all a little too unrealistic and sugar coated. But it is tender, sweet, unbelievably charming and the fact it's all very innocent actually makes it surprisingly enjoyable, it just lacks that emotional, hard hitting grittiness which I have come to expect when I see that a movie is an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Tags: Nicholas Sparks