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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 9/20/02

A Walk to Remember
2002 (2002) - Pandora/Warner (Warner)

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

A Walk to Remember Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/C+/B-

Specs and Features
102 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at ???), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary (with Shane West, Mandy Moore and director Adam Shankman), audio commentary (with novelist Nicholas Sparks and screenwriter Karen Janszen), Mandy Moore Cry music video, theatrical trailer, filmographies, film-themed menus, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1 - French dubbed in Quebec), subtitles: English, French & Spanish, Closed Captioned

Landon (Shane West) is the town's bad seed. He drinks, smokes and basically throws his life away because it's "cool". When he accidentally injures another kid in an initiation stunt, his single mother and school principal force Landon to face reality and try to make him do something about himself. Obviously, Landon thinks it's stupid and does not want to change. But in the activities he's forced to do after school, which include tutoring kids on the weekend and playing a part in the spring play, he's paired with Janey (Mandy Moore).

Janey is the daughter of the town's preacher, a young woman who is ridiculed for her faith in God and the fact she's been wearing the same sweater since the fourth grade. Everyone sees her as simply a bible-reading goodie-two-shoes. But as Landon is forced to spend time with her, he begins to see much more in her. She's into astronomy, she can sing like nobody's business and, despite her faith in God, she doesn't have all of the answers.

When Landon asks Janey to tutor him, she agrees with one condition - that he won't fall in love with her. He thinks nothing of this, but as he begins to change for the better (thanks to his love for Janey), they both will be forced to face ridicule and an impossible fate that will test both of their young hearts.

A Walk to Remember takes it's cue from those old, weepy/creepy romantic movies from the 50's and 60's. It's got your clichéd "Boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-loves-preacher's-daughter" plotline, and there really is no way to avoid talking about how overtly obvious it is, or of its Love Story-esqe ending. But there are two things that put this film ahead of the pack. First is its portrayal of Christianity. The film doesn't make grand religious statements, but at the same time doesn't vilify it either. It's interesting that much of the Janey character is based upon her faith, yet her faith is much different than her father's. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will say that her faith is based more on her belief that everything in the world will turn out all right. Part of her reluctance to love Landon is that he questions the existence of a higher power ("Don't give me another reason to hate God," she says at one point). But her belief that Landon will reform comes out of the belief that everything will be all right.

The film is also different in that both leads are good actors and perform quite well. Shane West is well cast as the rebel, both in look and in style. West is able to embody both a youthful roguishness and a loving boyfriend in the same film, and it's quite interesting to watch his transformation. But even more surprising is Mandy Moore, who has the quieter, but more challenging role, as the girl whose faith is tested to enormous lengths. Moore just shines here, and it's easy to see why she's somewhat abandoned her singing career to do more acting. Moore received good reviews for this performance, and it'll be interesting to see where she'll be five years down the road.

On disc, A Walk to Remember is a nice package. The video transfer is crisp, displaying no avert signs of edge enhancement. Detailing is also good, and there is a nice deep black level. The picture does look a little soft, and the colors a bit mudded, but it seems to be from the cinematography not the transfer itself. The audio is also a bit unimpressive, but given the nature of the film, it doesn't require a lot from the surrounds. The dialogue is always clear, and the surrounds are used primarily for ambience. They are, however, used to great effect during chapter 12, where Janey sings a song in the school play. The song seems to fill the room, and is really well mixed, sonically.

We are treated to not one, but two audio commentaries. The first is with Shane West, Mandy Moore and director Adam Shankman. Though somewhat entertaining, they really don't add anything spectacular if you're looking for the process behind the film, instead of just antidotes. A lot of the discussion is centered on how great everyone is, and what Shankman's dog did when he visited the set. The second commentary is by novelist Nicholas Sparks (who also wrote Message in a Bottle) and screenwriter Karen Janszen. This commentary obviously centers on the script, and primarily the differences between the book and the film. While both took their jobs seriously, they do occasionally note how melodramatic some of the situations seem, which I thought was nice, as they didn't drone on about how great the story is.

Also included is Mandy Moore's Cry video. Presented in full-frame, the video doesn't include any footage from the film (thankfully), and instead has an odd storyline that seems to imply that Shane West is obsessing over Mandy after the filming of the movie, with Mandy singing over a bluescreen. Quite odd, but if you didn't find the song annoying, check it out. Finally, there are some barebones filmographies and an anamorphically enhanced trailer.

A Walk to Remember is an odd teen movie that decides to take the high road, and tells a story without fart jokes or climaxes at the prom. Though not completely able to overcome its more melodramatic plot threads, the nice performances by both leads are a nice distraction for a lazy afternoon. And this is a good film to watch with the whole family - a rare thing indeed.

Graham Greenlee
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