A Walk to Remember

When Landon Carter (Shane West, TV's "Once and Again"), a member of Beaufort High's in-crowd, is caught after a dare causes terrible harm to another student, he's assigned to the tutoring program and the lead in the school play to teach him some values and expose him to different people. Finding himself in over his head, Landon's forced to ask for help from Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore, "The Princess Diaries"), the plain, distinctly uncool, minister's daughter. Landon's values are tested even more when he finds himself drawn to the girl his crowd routinely torments in "A Walk to Remember."

Laura's Review: B-

"A Walk to Remember" is full of cliches and gets bogged down in its final third with overt and saccharine Christian homilies, but the talent of its leads, their chemistry, and sure-handed direction make this worth a look nonetheless. Twelve year old girls should love this movie.

Landon and his too cool buddies Dean (Clayne Crawford, TV's "Roswell"), Erik (Al Thompson, "The Royal Tenenbaums") and still-pining ex-girlfriend Belinda (Lauren German, "Down to You") like to make fun of Jamie's modest attire, particularly her old, green sweater, but she appears not to notice. When Jamie tries to talk to Landon on the school bus after a tutoring session, he's rude and sums up her character in a few sentences, but when he's stranded without a ride and deems to ask her for one, he starts to become intrigued. 'Number 34,' she exclaims after acquiescing to his changing of her radio station, 'befriend someone I don't like.' Her list also includes a year in the Peace Corp, making a medical discovery, being in two places at once and getting a tattoo.

The pair dance around the usual teen hurdles as Jamie initially tries to remain cool with his friends, his friends pull a "Carrie"-light on Jamie, Jamie's father stands in the way, etc. Once the ultimate cliche is announced, however, the film never quite recovers from what had, against all odds, been working.

"A Walk to Remember" was adapted from a novel by Nicholas Sparks, who also wrote the waterlogged "Message in a Bottle." Teen pop singing star Mandy Moore has strong screen appeal, though, and makes her cute list and square attitude fresh. She also gets a couple of wildly different opportunities to show off her singing ability. Shane West finds the right balance between coolness and teenaged rebellion that allows his character's innate decency to peek through. Landon's attempts to win over Jamie feel true and drew approving sighs from the mostly female screening audience. This is one charismatic couple.

Support is mixed. Al Thompson offers nice support as Landon's best friend, but Crawford is one-note, making his turnaround feel scripted rather than character motivated. Darryl Hannah is fine as Landon's struggling single mom, but neither dad works. Peter Coyote offers a caricature of a straight-laced minister while Charles E. Bailey does nothing to help the poorly written part of Dean's dad.

"A Walk to Remember" is a sickly sweet story with no memorable walk in sight, but Moore and West make it a pleasant stroll.