There's nothing wrong with old-fashioned values, or even old-fashioned styles of telling a story--carefully and slowly, rather than fast-cut flash and dash--but here, the screenwriter and the director have gotten bogged down into a literalness that kills rather than kindles the genuine bright sparks that could have made the story's sweetness and sentiment resonant as at least a refreshing change.
"A Walk to Remember" is based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, also the novelist who wrote the romance "Message in a Bottle." This time, the barrier to easy love is created by an ocean of misunderstandings and conflicting morals and mores as a wannabe rebel-without-a-cause falls for the school do-gooder, her plain clothes and plain talk solidly structured on her religious faith.
The film doesn't dig deep enough to make the couple's efforts to find common ground philosophically intriguing; instead, its drama relies on the usual friends who scoff, parents who don't understand and a "Love Story" plot twist. It only manages to be token toward the complex issue of faith and spirituality and toward the supporting characters, therefore undercutting the real impact of the teenagers' struggle for happiness.
As Jamie, the dutiful but spunky preacher's daughter, Mandy Moore has a pop-star prettiness that is too obvious to provide any surprise in the moment during the school play when her innate attractiveness is exposed. It's also no surprise that she sings--after all, she is Mandy Moore. Shane West has matching "Dawson's Creek"-style looks as the not-so-bad boy Landon. The young actors suffer from the film's lack of natural energy, but they manage a few appealing moments of wholesome romance.
Peter Coyote gives all he can to the preacher father role, and it's too much--as though he's trying to cram into his allotted amount of screen time all the thought and feeling he believes the entire story should be conveying. Daryl Hannah, once the beguiling star of the really charming fish-out-water romance "Splash," has little to do but be nice as Landon's attractive mother. Starring Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote and Daryl Hannah. Directed by Adam Shankman. Written by Karen Janszen. Produced by Denise Di Novi and Hunt Lowry. A Warner Bros. release. Romantic drama. Rated PG for thematic elements, language and some sensual material. Running time: 100 mi