The filmmakers behind "Not Another Teen Movie" should've looked to "A Walk To Remember" (IMDb listing) for advice. At its best, "Remember" is an overly earnest soap opera that will have the 13 year-old girls swooning their way into the onset of puberty. At its worst, "Remember" is hilariously shameless at trotting out the teen movie cliches that "Not Another Teen Movie" so thoroughly failed to recreate.
Landon (Shane West, "Whatever It Takes") is a high school kid from the wrong side of the tracks. When a routine hazing prank goes terribly wrong, Landon is caught, and as punishment he is forced to tutor troubled kids during the weekends, and star in the school musical during the evenings. Jamie (Mandy Moore) is a grade A student, deeply religious, and is the class loser. When Landon and Jamie meet, he can't stand her unwillingness to become more accepted, and she doesn't care for his flippant attitude toward her lifestyle. Soon enough, Landon begins to fall in love with Jamie, and the two begin a romantic odyssey that promises to change both their lives forever.
"A Walk To Remember" is easy to make fun of. Maybe too easy. It's featherweight material, aimed at the lovestruck young who will respond quite dramatically to its romantic intention and tragic consequences. It's not high art, but even taking the film on its own limited terms, it still doesn't work. Based on Nicholas Sparks's best selling novel, "A Walk To Remember" cannot stuff all of his narrative into one movie. In trying to do so, the film is uneven, moving from event to event without much care to attach the loose ends. The film also moves along at such a quick pace that it becomes laborious to interest yourself in the story. Jamie and Landon fall in love in what seems like only a scene or two, yet to the characters it has been an eternity. There isn't nearly enough time to process the relationship, so as the film ups the stakes of their love, the patron participation factor plummets.
Director Adam Shankman ("The Wedding Planner") rushes his film to the finish line, losing what little integrity the piece had along the way. Sure, there is enough emotional syrup to drain the eyes of precious tears, but in the end Shankman fails to create the wonderful timelessness that most of these soap operas fight viciously to achieve. It may play to the junior high crowds, but this film will be forgotten by the end of the month.
If there is anything to recommend about "A Walk To Remember," it is pop superstar Mandy Moore, here in her first starring role. A young woman of alarming screen ease, Moore is the glue that holds the film together. She is the only actor in the film who seems to be equally enjoying the material and trying to elevate it at the same time. Moore instills her character with more principle than I expected. Not just the wallflower who blooms when she finds love, Moore fashions Jamie as arelativelycontented young woman who enjoys her new love affair, but is not defined by it. Sure, the film wouldn't be doing its job if it didn't give her some chances to sing, but her acting is better than I expected. If Moore can find her way out of this sort of teen claptrap soon, there could be quite an acting career dawning.
The same cannot be said of co-star Shane West. To put it bluntly, West is frightful in "Remember." A slick young actor with all the screen presence of a ball of yarn, West works overtime to make sure the audience knows he is emoting, an annoying trait he stubbornly refuses to drop. West is kind of like actor Chris Klein's acting twin, in that he's trying to get by on his (questionable) good looks, but knows deep within the cockles of his Abercrombie and Fitch heart that it's hopeless. He's blown off the screen by the cast (including Daryl Hannah as his mother and Peter Coyote as Jamie's dad), and I hope West learns some chops before his next film comes to fruition.
"A Walk To Remember" is a walk that I do not recommend you take.
Filmfodder Grade: D