When A Walk to Remember-released on video this month-debuted in theaters this past winter, it was met with a mixture of disdain and condescension by mainstream film critics, who charged that the syrupy sweet tale had nothing to do with the realities of modern teen life. A few critics, however, like the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert, allowed themselves a certain amount of appreciation for the film's atypically good-natured sensibilities.
A Walk to Remember (rated PG for thematic elements, bad language, and some sensual material) is an anomaly among modern teen-themed films, and does deserve some credit for this. It's the story of a strong-willed minister's daughter, Jamie (played by singer Mandy Moore), who is confident enough in her beliefs that the barbs of "cool kids" at her high school have little effect. She wears frumpy clothes and packs her own lunch, and is involved in such activities as after-school tutoring and the drama club.
When Landon (Shane West), a "bad/cool kid," is implicated in an incident that involved drinking and the serious injury of another student, he is given one of those punishments only found in the movies: Rather than face expulsion, he must participate in-you guessed it-the tutoring program and the drama club.
Criticizing a relatively clean film about teenagers that shows some respect for faith and a minister of the Word is a slightly unpleasant task. But all is not well with A Walk to Remember. Miss Moore and Mr. West do adequate jobs, but the script never really fleshes out their characters, and the plot lurches forward with little grace. More troubling, Jamie's positive influence on Landon is the result of "faith" in him-not her ability to point out his need for faith in something (or someone) outside himself. The movie seems to go out of its way to show that the two lovebirds (there, I've spoiled the surprise) never find common ground on the issue of religious faith.
In reality, both sets of critics were right: A Walk to Remember deserves praise for the chances it does take, but there's really not enough depth here to make this a movie to celebrate.