I got more enjoyment out of the squeals of joy from the 9-14-year-olds in the audience than from anything on the screen in this syrupy re-tread of “Love Story” set in a Beaufort, North Carolina high school.
Teen Beat pin-ups Mandy Moore and Shane West star as high school seniors Jamie and Landon. Landon is what passes for a glamorous bad boy in Beaufort. He and his friends spend most of their time partying and congratulating themselves on being better than anyone else. They play a prank on a boy who commits the great sin of thinking he might be worthy of hanging out with them. When the boy is seriously injured, Landon is sentenced to participation in school activities: tutoring a disadvantaged kid, sweeping up, and starring in the school play(!).
Landon keeps running into Jamie, a plain, Bible-toting girl who always wears the same sweater and does not care what other people think about her. He asks her for help learning his lines. When he sees her for the first time on opening night, all dolled up to play a nightclub singer (apparently their play had no dress rehearsals), it turns out that she is very pretty. He finds himself drawn to her, and, through her, drawn to a better notion of his own potential.
There is nothing that anyone over the age of 15 hasn’t seen a dozen times, including the plain girl who loosens her hair and turns out to be beautiful, the reunion with the estranged father, and that old favorite, movie star’s disease, in which the actress becomes more beautiful as she gets sicker. The direction, cinematography, and performances are barely adequate, but the Beaufort setting is lovely and the movie manages a couple of affecting moments. But “A Walk to Remember” is a movie to forget.
Parents should know that the movie has very strong language for a PG, with many “s-words.” Before Landon cleans up his act, he drinks and drives. It is clear that Jamie is very principled and their only physical involvement is some chaste kisses. At one point, she asks, “Are you trying to seduce me?” and he replies, “Are you seducible?” She says she is not and he respects her for it. Landon’s best friend is black (Al Thompson as Eric), but the character’s dialogue is so stereotyped that he seems like the “token black guy” in “Not Another Teen Movie.” He and Landon have an elaborate special friendship handshake, and there is an unintentionally hilarious moment when, after an exchange of sympathy and support, they somberly go into their handshake moves.
Families who see this movie should talk about whether they have lists of things they want to do before they die, and how we can help each other realize our dreams. How can we tell that Landon was not happy when he thought he was better than Jamie? How did she show him that he could be something more? When should we care about what other people think of us, and when shouldn’t we?