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Warner Home Video presents
A Walk to Remember (2002)

Jamie: You have to promise that you won't fall in love with me.
Landon: That's not a problem.

- Mandy Moore, Shane West

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: October 10, 2002

Stars: Mandy Moore, Shane West
Other Stars: Peter Coyote, Daryl Hannah
Director: Adam Shankman

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, language, and some sensual material
Run Time: 01h:42m:32s
Release Date: July 09, 2002
UPC: 085392242023
Genre: romance


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B BB+B C+

DVD Review

Novels by Nicholas Sparks are written with a specific audience in mind. Sure, I suppose he'd love for his books to be adored by all, but he is clearly lobbing them straight at one clear target, hoping that they'll plop gooily into the hands of the women over 40 crowd. He says as much on the commentary track included on this DVD, calling A Walk to Remember a novel aimed primarily at "middle-aged women." So why is the movie version clearly tailor-made for tweeners and teens, what with the "starring pop sensation Mandy Moore and Once & Again hottie Nick Stahl?" That's easy. Kids these days, figure the studios, have a lot of discretionary income, and teenaged girls love a good cry.

The book was set in the 1950s, Sparks' ode to his dearly departed sister, who died at a young age. The movie is set in the nineties. The generational change has very little impact on the core story. Landon (West) is your signature "bad kid," what with the indifference towards authority and the getting one of his friends paralyzed during a prank gone awry in the opening moments of the movie. As punishment, he has to do community service and get involved with the school play. Whoa, harsh. If the now crippled kid could move his arms, I'm sure he'd be wiping away tears of sorrow for poor Landon. Luckily for our hero (who, we all know, truly yearns to be good), Jamie (Moore) is in the play too, and she's willing to overlook his faults and be his friend, even after he shuns her in public.

Jamie, you see, is another stock character—the Angel On Earth whose mission in life is to bring joy to everyone she meets, even Troubled Rebels like Landon. Her father is a stern minister, and she quietly lives for the Lord, even if it makes her unpopular at school. We know she's religious because she wears clothes from the sensible aisle at Sears. As Jamie helps Landon with his acting, the two slowly fall for each other. Who saw that coming? They're so different! All of this leading up to Landon's discovery of Jamie's Tragic Little Secret, one that will Change Him Forever. Yes, it's that movie, complete with a wistful, three-hanky dénouement, Love Story-style.

That 1970s blockbuster was hardly original when it debuted, and A Walk to Remember is simply the latest in a long line of remakes (they even did another teen version recently, the dismal Chris Klein/Leelee Sobieski starrer Here on Earth). Adding to the project's bad mojo was the casting of Moore, whose only prior experience was a second-fiddle role in Disney's The Princess Diaries. Casting Moore felt like a gimmick, and her untested talents seemed sure to topple what was obviously going to be a mediocre film anyway.

Shock, then, because it's pretty good. Granted, the plot is as familiar and comfortable as an old shoe, the story beats falling into place one by one with no pretense of surprise or suspense. But Karen Janszen, in updating the script for the '90s, manages to jettison some of Sparks' more overt sentiment, stuff that plays fine on the page but would've exploded into melodrama on-screen. We're left with a simple story about two teens who find love in unexpected places (though not unexpected to the audience). Moore is quite good; what she lacks in nuance she makes up for in charisma, and she plays a teen more naturally than many actresses her age, even in the somewhat contrived scenes in which she's required to sing (you knew the pop star was going to be singing, right?). West has done fine work playing similarly troubled teens on TV, and he does no different here.

Adam Shankman, who directed another singer-turned-actress (or is it the other way around?) in The Wedding Planner, also carefully avoids schmaltz, establishing a serious tone without ever veering into camp (I'm looking at you, Britney Spears). The end result is an entertaining teen flick that manages not to insult the intelligence of any adults in the audience. See it for the middle-schooler lurking somewhere inside you, and have a good cry.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A Walk to Remember has been blessed with a rather nice transfer (benefiting a movie about a good, Christian girl, dontcha' think?). The 2.35:1 image is anamorphically enhanced and shows strong, solid colors, rich blacks, and good shadow detail. Aliasing is visible on complex patterns (namely checked shirts and a car grille), and I spotted a few minor compression artifacts, but nothing too glaring. Slight haloing on brighter shots can be spotted if you really look.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: A fairly quiet film receives a reserved DD 5.1 mix. Dialogue is anchored in the center channel and always sounds natural and clear. The front soundstage supports the score, with nice separation, though surrounds rarely kick in to provide a more enveloping experience. The few pop songs on the soundtrack add some kick to the mix, engaging the LFE channel.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Adam Shankman, actors Mandy Moore and Shane West; novelist Nicholas Sparks, screenwriter Karen Janszen
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Mandy Moore music video, Cry
Extras Review: It's funny. In the days of laserdiscs, commentary tracks were a rare treat, a chance to hear a famous filmmaker talk about one of his or her most important films, or often, a scene-by-scene analysis by a critic of an influential masterpiece. In the days of DVD, the classics are still often awarded commentary tracks, of course (Criterion). The popularity of DVD has also made it possible to hear insightful comments from the directors of such gems as The Animal and the latest Sandler opus.

A Walk to Remember isn't so complex a film that it warrants two discussion tracks, but the disc includes them anyway, and darn it if they aren't a lot of fun (one of them, anyway). The first features director Adam Shankman and stars Mandy Moore and Shane West. If you're looking for insight into the story and characters, or information on the technical aspects of the shoot, you won't find it here. The three share a ton of production anecdotes and laugh their way through the movie, pointing out continuity errors and little in-jokes all the way. Sounds like the movie was fun to make; the track isn't a bad listen either. The other features screenwriter Karen Janszen and novelist Nicholas Sparks (master of the weepy, maudlin tearjerker). The two spend most of their time highlighting the differences between the two mediums, and the difficulties of translating a period piece intended for an adult audience into a teen-pleasing contemporary romance. There's more dead air than I'd like, but I suppose fans of the book will want to hear Sparks' opinion on the film. Methinks I also sense some tension at times, as Janszen defends some creative license she took with the characters, and points out some racy humor added against her will.

The only other extras offered are the theatrical trailer and the music video for Moore's hit Cry. Note that none of the over 30 deleted scenes discussed on the commentaries have been included.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A Walk to Remember is typical Nicholas Sparks' fare. It's clichéd, cloying, and sugary sweet. But it's also sincere (with a screenplay that manages to underplay the melodrama of it all), and is brought to life by some surprisingly capable acting from Mandy Moore. Yes, I hate myself for liking it (it stars a teen idol, a gosh darn diva-in-the-making), but at least it isn't Crossroads. Not that I mind the occasional "we made this as an excuse for you to play drinking games" movie.

 


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