January 31, 2002


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Perhaps Adam Shankman’s film is “a walk to remember,” but that’s only because it’s a story that’s been recycled thousands of times before. It’s another one of those incredibly idealistic declarations of the powers and wonders of true love. True love is patient; true love is kind; true love is basically the be-all and end-all of everything that conquers the whole world. The film shoves this message down our throats until we gag, leaving us wanting to “forget” the whole experience altogether and root for hate, jealousy, and infidelity instead.

Newcomer Shane West portrays Landon Carter, an archetypal nonconformist bad boy who falls for the sweet and innocent Jamie Sullivan, appropriately played by squeaky-clean pop ingenue Mandy Moore. Of course, seeing that these characters have diametrically opposing personalities, the love between them isn’t immediate. Landon, very concerned with maintaining his reputation as one of the popular people, initially spurns the friendship of Jamie, feeling that she is too low on the teenage social totem pole for him. He’s only forced to be in the same social situations with her when a violation of the school’s drinking policy lands him major time in community service activities, which the God-fearing Jamie diligently participates in.

Jamie, despite Landon’s cold aloofness, persists in pursuing his friendship. Her character plays into the whole feminine insistence that inside each bad boy is a sensitive and warm soul that can be brought out with the right gentle womanly care. And slowly but surely Jamie’s forgiving patience starts winning him over. He learns to look beyond her frumpy granny sweaters to see the unwavering kindness, yet fascinating quirkiness of her personality.

The film’s theme that inner beauty is of prime importance is not conveyed very convincingly. Yes, Landon started to realize his feelings for Jamie while she was still wearing her dowdy Sunday dresses, but it takes her breathtaking transformation in glamorous evening-wear and makeup to finally prompt him to ask her out. It seems as if he decided to pursue her only because she had the potential to be physically attractive, which, of course, is entirely contrary to the whole skin-deep message. And is Mandy Moore completely believable as a plain-Jane outcast, when in real life she’s a tall and slender gorgeous star over which most boys salivate?

Besides this amusing scenario of watching a boy learn to see the “beauty” of a “plain” girl, the film’s handling of the romantic scenario drowns it in sappiness that only exists in the delusions of misty-eyed, love-sick fools. Jamie and Landon’s love affair starts off promisingly enough. Shankman is careful to portray the subtle insecurities and fears about the consequences of a seemingly mismatched union, and even after they get together we wonder if they can reconcile their differing lifestyles to happily remain as one. But it’s all downhill from there. Instead of focusing on the plausible, nuanced tensions that come with every meaningful relationship, Shankman throws in this ridiculously unbelievable deus-ex-machina to prove just how much true love can endure. This leaves us shaking our heads in annoyed disbelief.

If you want to see attractive people getting together to make widescreen enjoyable eye-candy, A Walk to Remember provides just that, especially scenes in which Moore prettily puts her singing talents and modeling capabilities to use. But that’s only if you can stomach the sickening servings of love, love and more love, which goes on for a full hour and 40 minutes.

Archived article by Sherry Jun