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A Walk to Remember (Warner Bros.) is based on a tear-inducing novel by Nicholas Sparks (author of Message in a Bottle). Young evangelical pop singer Mandy Moore portrays Jamie Sullivan, a straight-laced, brilliant, and ostracized preacher's kid in a small North Carolina town. In its opening scenes, A Walk to Remember feels like just another movie in which thrill-seeking teen-agers behave moronically. Soon enough, however, Jamie is exchanging misty glances with Landon Carter (Shane West). The class nerd and the class thug discover a love for one another. Peter Coyote delivers one of the finest performances of his eccentric career, portraying Jamie's strict but emotionally generous father. One moment, in which the main characters gather in a church, is reminiscent of the breathtaking Communion scene from Places in the Heart. A Walk to Remember is a quiet but remarkable film.
from Film Forum, 02/07/02
Director Adam Shankman's (The Wedding Planner) A Walk to Remember, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, has religious press journalists on their feet and cheering. But mainstream critics are remaining seated, or else they're headed for the lobby, where they're jostling to come up with the best joke headline—"The Bland Leading the Bland," "Forgettable," and "A Walk to Forget." Are these naysayers merely prejudiced? Or is the movie really just preaching to the choir? If you've seen the film, let me know what you think.
The heroine is Jamie Sullivan (pop singer Mandy Moore), daughter of a kind-hearted pastor (Peter Coyote) in a small North Carolina town. We're given the impression that Jamie is considered unattractive. (This made many critics smirk—apparently, it's hard to make Mandy Moore look dumpy.) In spite of her perpetual good deeds, Jamie gets mocked by high school troublemakers and popular kids. One of the class rebels, Landon Carter (Shane West), gets assigned the lead in a school play as a punishment for causing trouble. And—surprise, surprise—it's righteous-but-unpopular Jamie who gets the job of teaching him his lines. Surely the "plain" beauty and the "handsome" beast will be drawn to each other. Surely Papa will disapprove. And surely some dark secret will be revealed.
"Who would have thought that A Walk To Remember would turn out to be the first pleasant movie surprise of 2002?" says Michael Elliott (Movie Parables). "It will have its fair share of detractors who will deride it for what they'll [call] sappy, sentimental content. The film wears its heart on its sleeve, but at least it is a healthy heart that beats soundly and resonates with love."
CT's Douglas LeBlanc says, "Peter Coyote delivers one of the finest performances of his eccentric career" in what he describes as "a quiet but remarkable film."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' critic writes, "Shankman's earnest teen romance travels a predictable route but excels in affirming faith values as a positive and joyous part of life."