It all comes down to who's by your side.
Multi-platinum pop sensation Mandy Moore seems to be riding on the crest of a very successful wave. In the late 1990s she burst upon the scene with her self-titled debut album (featuring the hit song "Candy"). Unfortunately, Moore was swimming in a sea of ready made pop star icons, including the waif-er thin Christina Aguilera and the ever worshipped Britney Spears. But there was something different about Moore—instead of playing up her sexuality, Moore showed that she could sing and dance without turning on the Lolita vibe. In 2000, Moore was given the opportunity to host her own show on MTV, which in turn led to roles in such films like Dr. Doolittle 2 and The Princess Diaries. In 2001, Moore was featured in her first starring role in A Walk to Remember, an adaptation of author Nicholas Sparks' phenomenally popular novel. Also starring Shane West (Once and Again, Get Over It), Peter Coyote (Timerider), and Daryl Hannah (Splash), A Walk to Remember makes its DVD debut care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
What happens when you don't need the adulation of others to feel good about yourself? Well, if you're in the movie A Walk to Remember, you might end up like Jamie Sullivan (Moore), a plain Jane who doesn't bother with other people's opinions to feel she's special. Jamie lives in a small town with her father (Coyote), who is also the town preacher. At school, Jamie is mousy and introverted, yet she radiates something grand that captures the heart of local bad boy Landon (West). Landon's friends are all mischief makers, and after an accident occurs at a local swimming hole while initiating a new boy into their group, Landon's punishment is after-school tutoring and working in the spring drama production (the principal thinks "it's time for you to start experiencing other things and spending time with other people"). Landon has trouble learning his lines and asks Jamie for help. In turn, this starts a relationship that will take both Jamie and Landon to places and experiences they never expected to go. As Landon delves deeper into Jamie's world, he discovers that she makes him want to be a better person. And though Landon's life Jamie discovers a love she never knew existed…until a cataclysmic series of events tests both their hearts and their faith.
I commend Mandy Moore. While her pop counterparts went off to make self-indulgent drivel (Mariah Carey in the godawful Glitter and Britney Spears in the laughable Crossroads), Moore took the higher road and came out with the wonderfully crafted A Walk to Remember. I use the word wonderful because that is truly what this movie is—a beautiful, captivating film that reminds me why I love the movies. If you're surprised to be reading this, just imagine the shock on my face when I saw this movie. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I went in with a closed heart and a cynical foot one step though the door. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I expected to be writing a scathing review of this film ala Carey's Glitter by now. A Walk to Remember sneaked up on me and played my heartstrings like they were bound to the end of a yo-yo.
What made this movie so good? To start with, it's the film's stunning lack of cynicism. After such a long spate of mean teen movies, A Walk to Remember is like breathing in pure oxygen. It features three universal themes and morals that need to be heard: be yourself at all times, let yourself open to love, and above all else, experience the wonders of faith. In today's world what could be more important?
The performances are all winning, especially Mandy Moore and Shane West as the romantic leads. Moore is a solid beauty with a natural flair for acting. She never overplays her role nor underplays it—in essence, she was the perfect choice for this role and makes a stunning cinematic debut. West has been a staple of the critically acclaimed TV show Once and Again and appeared in director Barry Levinson's coming-of-age Liberty Heights. Here he shines in a role that may have been trite by any other actor's standards. Like Moore, Shane has a natural presence on screen and the two actors generate a warm romantic glow that effortlessly propels the film forward. Peter Coyote (best known as an announcer during each Oscar telecast) as Jamie's father could have been a crushing caricature but instead comes off with good motivation for being so protective of Jamie. Unfortunately, Daryl Hannah as Landon's mother is more than underused—why include her in the movie if you're not going to do anything with her?
I praise this movie for being more than fair in its reflection of Christians on screen. Hollywood often enjoys skewering religion in movies, especially the Christian and Catholic faiths. Often they're portrayed as fanatic God nuts or shifty evangelists. Jamie's spiritual fountain comes from deep inside and pours out onto others—the difference being that when her faith touches those around her it's usually by her actions, not her words. Director Adam Shankman (The Wedding Planner) almost never lets the sugar seep too thick or thin—his direction is just right. By the end things get a little overly sappy, but this is a teenage romance—who among us wasn't a little mushy at that impressionably young age?
I would like to take the time to also give accolades to composer Mervyn Warren and his beautiful music score for A Walk to Remember. Lush and romantic, this is exactly the type of music that should be available on CD, but alas is not; all that's available is a mediocre pop soundtrack featuring Moore and other hip teen artists.
I know that there's some of you guys out there reading this and thinking, "Ha! I'm not seeing that chick flick fluff!" I implore you to give it some consideration. Find a date, make her watch, and witness her tears fall like rain.
You can thank me later.
A Walk to Remember is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As usual, Warner's work on this transfer is nearly stunning—with deep black levels and even flesh tone and colors, A Walk to Remember is a transfer to remember (I just couldn't resist that joke). While there are a few imperfections in the image (including a smattering of edge enhancement), overall this is a very attractive looking picture.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English as well as French. Not surprisingly, this is a fairly subdued mix save for the pop/rock soundtrack. The directional effects are utilized when either A.) some teen pop music comes into play or B.) ambient and background sounds are present. Otherwise, the film's sound field is located in the front and center speakers. All aspects of the soundtrack are free and clear of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Since A Walk to Remember was a modest hit at the box office, Warner has seen fit to include few extra features on this disc. The meatiest of these lies in the form of two commentary tracks. The first is by actors Mandy Moore, Shane West, and director Adam Shankman. The second is by novelist Nicholas Sparks and screenwriter Karen Janszen. Taken as a whole these two commentaries are filled with funny stories from the production and tidbits on how the screenplay and story came into being. The first track by Moore, West, and Shankman leans more towards comedy and humor, while the second track by Sparks and Janszen is far more informative and practical. If you've on a limited time budget, I'd recommend the track by Sparks and Janszen.
Also included on this disc is a full frame music video for the song "Cry" by Mandy Moore (who looks prettier in the film than she does here), some cast and crew information on the principals, and an anamorphic theatrical trailer for the film.
Could it be that we are seeing a few signs of the impending apocalypse? Never in a thousand years did I expect to like A Walk to Remember. In fact, I was so moved that by the last fourth of the film I had tears running down my face. This from the same guy who loved Dude, Where's My Car? and Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter. I highly recommend checking out A Walk to Remember. Bonus points if you have a date by your side (just a few minutes of warm consolation and you're in like Flint)!
It's sappy, sentimental, and soft. Yet I loved it. A Walk to Remember is free to go! Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary by Shane West, Mandy Moore, and Director Adam Shankman
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