Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Starring: Mandy Moore, Shane West, Peter Coyote, Daryl Hannah, Clayne Crawford | Directed by: Adam Shankman | Produced by: Denise Di Novi, Hunt Lowry | Written by: Karen Janszen | Distributor: Warner Brothers
“She didn't belong. She was misunderstood. And she would change him forever. It all comes down to who's by your side.”
Just when you think that Hollywood has forgotten how to make a decent teen flic—they go out and surprise you. “A Walk to Remember” is an excellent start for the film release year of 2002. I was initially skeptical when I read early on that Director Adam Shankman (“Scream 2”) was going to direct the popular Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name. My skepticism was furthered by the fact that Sparks’ novel had been moved from the 50’s to modern day and that popular MTV artist and talk show host, Mandy Moore, had been given the lead.
Remember Mandy? She played the shameless cheerleader in “The Princess Diaries”. Adam Shankman, Mandy Moore, and a great performance by Shane West deliver an excellent movie for this generation of youth. I almost thought “Walk” could pass for a production by Billy Graham’s World Wide Pictures instead of Warner Brothers.
A warning: you’ll need to ignore the negative views of the critics on this one. One popular critic’s views I read showed that he was very upset, saying “Hollywood did not have the right to preach to us.” Does this mean that Hollywood does have the right to give our youth strong doses of violence, glorified drug and alcohol use and irresponsible sex? Where’s this reviewers consistency? As a committed Christian, I found it very refreshing that we could watch a “good” movie that strives to bring out the better side of everyone.
Our story opens like most teen films with the party crowd being glorified. It looks like they are the popular clique that America’s youth would long to hang with. From fast cars to careless boundaries, we see this gang engaging in your typical late night dare for acceptance. The problem is the dare goes too far and Landon Carter (Shane West) becomes the recipient of some unusual penance. He must help the janitors after school, spend his weekends tutoring Jr. High students, and be a part of the school’s drama club. Not a terrible alternative to a simple suspension. His punishment moves him from the world of being shallow to a world that will help him find himself.
Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) is the daughter of a local minister. Your first thoughts could be “here goes Hollywood picking on creating a stereotype of a poor repressed/religious girl who meets a cool altogether guy.” Jamie dresses plainly, loves star gazing and even (don’t faint folks) shares quotes from the Bible. Her character proves that uncompromised faith can impact the beliefs of others. Jamie resists peer pressure and does not allow her opinion of herself to be guided by others. Jamie’s father (Peter Coyote) is firm, but also has an open mind. The character of the minister is strong in and out of the pulpit. Some excellent dialog helps to shatter the usual minister stereotype.
In so many ways this film stands head and shoulders above the rest of the films in this genre. There is the tender romance shaped by respect and values; the powerful spiritual principle of forgiveness; and the steadfast dreams of a young girl who longs to see a miracle, then exclaims “maybe God has bigger plans for me than I had for myself.”
Yet, this is not the perfect “…Walk…”… it does have some mild profanity and religious exclamations. Also, some of the scenes were a bit strong for a “PG” film, but, overall, this is a movie to remember. My question is this: will the dulled MTV crowd buy into it? While its opening weekend was strong, (I was in a packed theater with lots of teens in the audience), much of the crowd laughed and made fun of the film. I can already see a shameless parody coming (“Not Another Teen Movie 2”?), but the message is inescapable. I strongly encourage parents and Christian youth to support this film. Let Warner Brothers know that you would like to see more movies like this one. We long for good films for our youth—well finally, here’s one on the right track!