A Walk to Remember

Bomb Rating: 

SPOILER ALERT: There will be major spoilers in this review along the lines of "Mandy Moore's character sings emotional ballads at critical plot junctures" or "Mandy Moore's character gets cancer and dies."

I'm lucky to be alive. After seeing "I Am Sam" and this snotfest, it's a wonder I didn't fly into some kind of psychotic rage and attempt to kill everyone in the theater with my pen light. (After which I would be shot to death by overzealous cops who respond to a report of an "out-of-control man of vaguely Middle Eastern descent wielding a sharp pen light." After discovering that my ancient ancestors hailed from what is now the Middle East, polls would indicate 78% for shooting, 15% against, and 7% for shooting the corpse some more. But I digress.)

This film proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Christians have feelings too. Mandy Moore plays Jamie Sullivan, daughter of the Reverend Sullivan (Peter Coyote) and a great believer in God. In fact, she's so much a believer in the Lord that the other kids make fun of her at school. She's like the school outcast. All the non-believer kids laugh at her bad sweaters. That, of course, makes it all the more unlikely that school bad boy Landon Carter (Shane West) will fall in love with her, but he does. And then she tells him she has cancer and she dies.

For somebody who's dying of leukemia, Mandy Moore spends a lot of time lying in her hospital bed looking like she just had sex with Fabio. This movie is just like "Sweet November" except without all the whoring. Fortunately, Jamie figures out in her hospital bed that God has a plan for her, at which point I thought, "Yeah, you and Kurt Warner." Why is it God's plan for Jamie to die of cancer while Kurt Warner gets to throw touchdown passes and sell Chunky soup? Why do God's plans always seem like something a schizophrenic would write on a napkin? Nevertheless, Jamie's faith is unwavering.

Naturally, she converts Landon, more or less. He goes from a bad boy to a loving boyfriend who marries Jamie just before she croaks, fulfilling all her earthly desires. This movie has quite a lot to digest. First of all, there's Daryl Hannah as Landon's mom, looking like a post-mortem Cher. There's the scene where Landon yells "Damn it" on the Sullivan's porch and the Rev comes storming out looking like he's going to kick some ass. Then there's the huge "Free John Geoghan" poster in the Sullivan's living room.

After Jamie announces the inevitability of her demise, the movie turns into a romance novel version of "Hard-Boiled." The carnage is palpable as director Adam Shankman stands in the hospital with his cliché gun and blasts everything in sight. At one point, Landon, who's estranged from his father, runs to dad the doctor and demands he do something. Unfortunately, dad is a dermatologist or something and Landon runs away in tears, berating Pop for a life's worth of neglect.

It seems to me that paying tribute to God by making a horribly bad movie incapable of presenting a theological argument without a heavy reliance on clichés, stereotypes and painful storytelling is not a tribute to God at all. In fact, it's more akin to kicking God in the nuts.

Here's a final piece of advice to Christian filmmakers who want to make an inspiring film respectful to their faith: Try to learn the meaning of the word "contrivance." One, I don't think God is real fond of being honored by contrivances. Second, why not arrive at faith in a film via experience? In "A Walk to Remember," Jamie doesn't have faith. She's the daughter of a reverend, for God's sake. She's been indoctrinated into a single way of thinking for her entire life. That's not a leap of faith -- that's brainwashing. If the Reverend had taught her to attribute everything in her life to the Space Marmot Lonnie, that's what she would have done.

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