Director: Ross Katz
Starring: Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Welling, Alexandra Daddario
We’re only a few days away until Valentine’s Day which also means we’ve got our annual Nicholas Spark film released in theaters to make us feel all lovey dovey. During the hot days of summer in Wilmington, North Carolina, Travis Parker (Walker) is working hard as a vet and throwing barbeques with his friends. His music is a bit too loud on a nightly basis for his new next-door neighbor, Gabby Holland (Palmer). She’s a medical student just looking to study and be with her dog. As you can probably guess, the music gets too loud one night and she comes over to yell at him. He lays on the charm real thick, but she’s not buying it due to how uptight she is. Her attraction to him is mutual even if she won’t admit it.
When their significant others are both away for an extended period, he continues to flirt with her until they relentlessly give in to the undeniable heat between them. Their relationship continues to grow into marriage and family, and they face some challenges along the way. In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, tragedy strikes and one of them is forced to make the ultimate choice no person should have to make.
While his books are popular and easy reads, we’re at the point of a Sparks saturation as we literally get a new movie every year with a slightly different angle to it. I’ve been known to read his earlier books and have liked a few of the movie adaptations, but even I’m at my breaking point. It’s based on the 2007 book of the same name and marks his 11th film, seven of which have come out since 2010. I wouldn’t necessarily mind if I felt like we were seeing something different from him with each movie, but we’re not. It boasts all of those Nicholas Sparks elements we have come to rely on: it has a rugged and handsome charmer meeting a young woman apprehensive about love who despises him at the same time, rain storms, ‘shocking’ twists, and corny dialogue. It’s all set during the hot summer months in North Carolina. I am pretty sure they shot it where they filmed Dawson’s Creek. I recognized some of those houses, docks, and the creek.
The whole first half of the film is quite slow as they continue to flirt and grow their relationship that’s all based on a summer fling. The conflict only comes in the last third of the movie once that Sparks “twist” happens. Let’s be real. It’s not really a twist as the opening narration let’s you know something’s going to happen. These films really only work if they feel unique and have a leading pair of stars. The chemistry between stars Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) and Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) is lukewarm. It’s hard to top Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook. Last year’s The Longest Ride worked moderately well thanks to the chemistry between Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson. Palmer makes Gabby pretty irritable in her first few scenes, while Walker plays Travis as your standard bro type of character. Both characters are generic at best. Tom Welling (Smallville) co-stars as Gaby’s doctor boyfriend and Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom) pops up as Travis’ dad.
Do I think that Sparks is a bad writer? No, not at all, but I do think he could take a break for a few years to rejuvenate. It just feels like with each new book he writes, he knows it will be made into a movie so he sticks to the same formula. Maybe the audience likes it, but these movies don’t really do all that well at the box office. The Choice isn’t all that terrible. The soundtrack is composed of good songs from the likes of Guster and The National. With Travis being a vet, we do get to see plenty of cute puppies! It’s not a good sign for your movie when the two memorable things are puppies and music.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It’s one of the weaker Sparks stories.
RATING: 2 out of 5 Ticket Stubs