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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » A Walk To Remember
A Walk To Remember
Warner Bros. // PG // July 9, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 3, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Entertainment isn't terribly different from physics, as both worlds are governed under their own sets of immutable laws and rules. Take the First Law of Thermodynamics, for instance. Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. Its equivalent in the entertainment world would probably be "every movie star wants to be a musician, and every musician wants to be a movie star." Sure, some may make claims to the contrary, but those of us who have spent every waking moment devouring their creative output know the score. Bruce Willis, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lopez, Billy Bob Thornton, Eddie Murphy, Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alyssa Milano, David Hasselhoff...heck, even Kari Wuhrer and Corey Feldman...are among the innumerable actors who have taken a stab at recording stardom with greatly varying degrees of success. On the other side of the fence are folks like Kris Kristofferson, Bon Jovi, Sting, Phil Collins, Prince, Tom Waits, Alice Cooper, Mick Jagger, Debbie Harry, and John Denver (whose Oh, God! hits stores the same day as the title reviewed here), though in more recent years, pop singers seem to comprise the bulk of musicians-cum-actors. So what sets Mandy Moore's A Walk to Remember apart from On the Line, Crossroads, Glitter, and Moesha? Significantly more critical acclaim, larger box office receipts, and the distinct sensation that this isn't just a vanity project for its leading lady, to name a few.

A Walk to Remember features pop singer Mandy Moore in her first starring role, following a few short months after a supporting role in the hugely successful The Princess Diaries. The alliterative Miss Mandy Moore is Jamie Sullivan, the reserved yet confident daughter of a preacher in the quaint waterfront town of Beaufort, North Carolina. She doesn't bother heaping on piles of make-up, preferring to trot around campus in frumpy ankle-length dresses and her ubiquitous lime green sweater. Jamie is about the last person who would be associated with Landon Carter (Once and Again's Shane West), a constant troublemaker whose most recent punishment involves participating in many of the same activities Jamie does of her own free will. Landon enlists Jamie's help in learning lines for a school play, and Jamie accepts on the one condition that he not fall in love with her. He laughs and mutters that won't present much of a problem, showing that Landon apparently hasn't seen the same trailer the rest of us have. They strike up a shaky friendship that Landon refuses to publicly acknowledge. Slowly but surely, he falls for Jamie and leaves his freewheeling lifestyle behind. Jamie is happier than she's ever been, but her reason for insisting that Landon not fall in love with her can't be supressed forever.

I cried at the end. Okay, I'm lying, but during a very sweet moment near the film's conclusion, I had a big smile plastered across my face. No, not a smarmy smirk, but the sort of genuine, heartfelt smile that not too many movies have been able to inspire. I'll admit that I went in expecting to dislike the movie, and I was so prepared to write a scathing review that I toyed with faux-witty barbs like "It's amusing that a movie with the title of A Walk to Remember is so instantly forgettable" even before the disc arrived in my mailbox. There is a certain revelation made well into the movie that I'll attempt to avoid spoiling, even though I hinted at it in my synopsis a little more heavily that I probably should have. It's the sort of turn in the plot that's rarely handled well, far more often than not feeling contrived and manipulative. A Walk to Remember pulls it off, an accomplishment I would've once thought inconceivable. Mandy Moore may not have an extensive amount of acting experience under her belt, but her talent is evident, and she's more than able to hold her own with the more experienced Shane West. I think it's great that Moore would choose to tackle a role so much more substantial than the recent debuts by Britney Spears and Mariah Carey. As expected, Moore is given a couple of opportunities to showcase her phenomenal set of pipes, though these moments are properly integrated into the plot and don't seem superfluous. It's easy to look at A Walk to Remember as "that Mandy Moore movie", but this is much West's show as it is Moore's, if not moreso. The movie is told almost entirely from his character's perspective, and it's exceedingly rare for Jamie to get any screentime without Landon lurking somewhere close by. It might warrant a mention that West has a fair amount of experience in the teen romance genre, having starred in the more traditional Whatever It Takes and Get Over It. West and Moore have undeniable chemistry on screen, and the progression of their affection for one another is believable and not as quick-'n-easy as is generally the case in similar movies.

I've repeatedly admitted my love for teen movies throughout my reviews, despite the fact that they almost without exception rehash the same warmed-over premise time and again. I'm hesitant to lump A Walk to Remember in with the rest of the teen romance genre, even though many of the same elements are present in some form. First of all, the title has four words instead of the usual three. Yes, that's intended as a rather pathetic joke, but it's true. With the exception of 10 Things I Hate About You (which was twice as good as most teen movies and therefore requires twice the standard length), most every prominent release in the genre since the explosion in 1998 has had that exact number of words in the title -- Can't Hardly Wait, Down to You, Drive Me Crazy, Get Over It, Here on Earth, She's All That, Whatever It Takes immediately spring to mind. Sure, A Walk to Remember features two opposites who are brought together somewhat reluctantly and somehow manage to fall head over heels in love. Jamie and Landon have little in common initially and are on polar opposite ends of the popularity spectrum. She isn't propelled to instant coolness once Landon first publicly expresses an interest in her, nor is there the usual adopting of behaviors and interests from each other's worlds. Jamie finds happiness through Landon, but as a character, she remains more or less the same from start to finish. This is almost unheard of in lesser teen movies. The expected hurtful act from a member of the former circle of friends doesn't have any sort of devastating effect on the relationship as is generally the case. There is a prominent school event that marks a turning point in the relationship, but it's not a dance and it's hardly the climax of the movie. Don't look for a cliched break-up in the second act or a sappy montage as an acoustic number by a top 40 artist bounces around in the background either.

A Walk to Remember's presentation on DVD is a cut above most teen movies as well. It may not be overflowing with supplemental material, but the quality of the disc's two commentaries more than makes up for the lack of some insubstantial promotional featurettes.

Video: A Walk to Remember is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Despite some recent concerns related to studios botching titles geared towards a certain audience, the film is indeed presented in its theatrical aspect ratio on DVD. The quality of the image is generally in keeping with the expected appearance of such a recent film, looking reasonably crisp with warm colors and no disconcerting flaws. There was one aspect I found unappealing, though it would seem to be an issue with the way the film was shot rather than a flub at the telecine stage. A thin veil of film grain is often present, though rarely so severe as to draw attention to itself. At those moments when the level of grain does prove to be distracting, it's greatly annoying and, at least for me, diminished the impact of those scenes to at least some minor extent. The most glaring example would be during Jamie's revelation, at which time the screen is completely engulfed by buzzing grain almost to the extent of the prologue in Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. Portions of the trailer provided on this disc look similar in appearance, and director Adam Shankman mentions in the commentary that he'd just recently supervised the transfer. Based on that, presumably this DVD is indicative of how A Walk to Remember appeared during its theatrical run this past winter.

Audio: As is invariably the case for a dialogue-driven love story, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is heavily anchored towards the front. Surrounds provide the expected reinforcement of music and scattered ambiance, though I was pleasantly surprised that A Walk to Remember didn't go overboard with the inclusion of popular songs unlike most of its brethren. The tunes that are present sound rich and lively, making effective use of all of the channels at their disposal. Dialogue is the star here, and it's rendered cleanly and is not at any time overwhelmed by other elements of the mix.

The French dub has also been given the six-channel treatment. Subtitles are provided in English, French, and Spanish, and English closed captions are available as well.

Supplements: I was surprised to discover that A Walk to Remember features two feature-length audio commentaries. Stars Mandy Moore and Shane West contribute the first, with director Adam Shankman (The Wedding Planner) in tow. The discussion is unrelentingly fun, overflowing with energy like no other commentary of recent memory. Pauses are very infrequent, and the three of them toss out countless stories. Two of my favorites involved fending off eels during the opening sequence in the pond and Adam Shankman repeatedly knocking over headstones on the first night of the shoot. They're fond of pointing out continuity errors and giggling in the background, and it seems as if every single scene in the movie ran at least several minutes longer in the original cut. Actually, A Walk to Remember was shot with a PG-13 in mind, and it's noted that quite a bit of dialogue and even certain imagery (such as a spoofed topless flier of Jamie) was trimmed out of the film. The three of them obviously had an extraordinary amount of fun despite the difficulty and time constraints of the shoot, and their friendship and enthusiasm contribute greatly to the boisterous and infectious feeling of the commentary.

Nicholas Sparks, the author of the novel upon which A Walk to Remember is based, and screenwriter Karen Janszen provide the second commentary. They examine the translation of a story from page to screen, maintaining the 'broad strokes' while staying true to the characters, even though some material works better on the printed page than on celluloid and vice versa. For instance, the film adaptation takes place some forty years after the novel, the wraparound story in the future has been altered considerably, and a subplot of Reverend Sullivan questioning his worth as a father has been dropped. Sparks also discusses the loss of his sister to cancer, the event that inspired the 1999 novel. The author understands that a novel won't be translated word for word in its film adaptation, and seems the very much enjoy the vision of A Walk to Remember that has been brought to the screen.

Rounding out the supplements are a music video for Mandy Moore's "Cry", cast/crew bios, and an anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) theatrical trailer. It's a disappointment that the 36 deleted scenes mentioned in the commentaries were not included in some form.

Conclusion: A Walk to Remember's appeal is probably going to be limited to a certain age range, though viewers in their late teens and early twenties needn't be turned off expecting tripe geared towards an audience a decade younger. Unlike movies with surface similarities, the romance doesn't feel contrived or sugary sweet, and the story offers a great deal beyond the well-tread "opposites attract and go to the prom" teen movie formula. I would definitely recommend A Walk to Remember as a rental or a purchase.

Related Links:
The Official Nicholas Sparks Web Site
Warner Bros.' A Walk to Remember site
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