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:: A Walk To Remember

Based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, “A Walk To Remember” tells a story of life, love and the inevitable. It’s a film for teenagers and could be seen as sappy and over-sentimental. But it surprises because it has inspiration and entertainment value. The appeal should spread well beyond the fans of its two young stars, Shane West and Mandy Moore.

Here is a story about intelligent high school students that deal with first love sweetly, yet seriously. In a small southern town, Landon Carter (Shane West) is a big man on his high school campus. He is cool and popular, but he lacks motivation. There doesn’t seem to be any long-tern aspirations in sight. Working on the school play or helping with any special needs isn’t right for the “cool” crowd. They’re for a person like Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore), a plain-Jane who has a lack of fashion sense and is strongly religious. She is the easy target for sarcasm. Somehow, her determination to ignore the jibes gets Landon’s attention. This follows an order of discipline by the school principal in him having to participate in the school play. In his panic, Landon turns to Jamie for help with his lines. His thoughts of her turn to admiration then love.

The odd friendship makes for an entertaining second part of the film, and the catalyst for viewers to reconsider their own values. Love changes people. Landon becomes the ideal boyfriend, in contrast to the thoughts of Jamie’s father (Peter Coyote) who is also the town’s Reverend. The Reverend begins to accept his reform and Jamie is simply happy to make peace with God. All seems well until Jamie shares a secret with Landon that will prevent them from living happily ever after.

Director Adam Shankman pulls out all stops in adding drama to an already emotional landscape. The film gets better once the romance ignites and it turns into a good, heartfelt story. Mandy Moore does sing during the film. Her acting could use some fine-tuning, but she performs honestly. Her looks could eventually make her a very captivating actress. Shane West is central to the film’s success. It is his emotional journey that we follow. He has that “Rob Lowe” cocky look that gives him the edge he needs. He carries his role pretty well in showing how a wayward boy can mend his ways. Peter Coyote shows both a firm and sensitive side to his role as Reverend Sullivan, while Daryl Hannah plays Landon’s mother. She is really starting to look old.

The target audience (< 21 years of age) will enjoy “A Walk To Remember”. What might set out as a familiar path takes a refreshingly different turn. The chemistry between Moore and West is inviting, and it brings a good tale of romance with an emotional punch.

Screening on general release.