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'Walk to Remember, A'

Pop star is forgettable in 'A Walk to Remember'

Friday, January 25, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Just when I thought I had seen enough Leelee Sobieski movies to last me a decade, along comes "A Walk to Remember." Starring not Sobieski, an overexposed but excellent actress who has been nominated for an Emmy and two Golden Globes, but Mandy Moore, pop singer, MTV regular and spokeswoman for Neutrogena.

'A Walk To Remember'

RATING: PG for thematic elements, language and some sensual material.

STARRING: Mandy Moore, Shane West

DIRECTOR: Adam Shankman

WEB SITE: www2.warnerbros.com



She may have sold millions of CDs and made her acting debut with a small role in "The Princess Diaries," but she's no dramatic leading lady. Maybe she will evolve into one or maybe she needs a better-written role, but she is the weakest link here. Good-bye.

Criticizing "A Walk to Remember," a movie that wants to celebrate soul-rattling love, faith and miracles, is like kicking a basket of puppies or kittens (not that I've ever done that). But it's predictable and dying to make you weep or at least sniffle. No thank you.

Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, it's set in Beaufort, N.C., where Moore plays Jamie Sullivan, daughter of a strict Baptist minister (Peter Coyote) who initially seems straight out of "Footloose." Jamie wears her dark hair pulled back and favors shapeless frocks, the single button-down sweater she owns and sensible shoes worn with anklets. She's the misfit who is insulted by the cool kids.

A high school senior, she willingly gives up her Saturdays to tutor disadvantaged students, carries a Bible and is forbidden to date. She's a good person who lives with her widowed father.

Jamie is the last person Landon Carter (Shane West, the teen-age son on "Once and Again") would ever love. So, of course he falls for her.

Landon is a bad boy, a popular student involved in a prank gone awry. As part of his punishment, Landon must help the school janitorial staff, tutor at the same place as Jamie and appear in the school's spring play. He, unhappily, is cast in the male lead while Jamie gets the female lead. Landon leans on Jamie for help with his lines and finds himself drawn to the girl with the unusual pastimes, including looking at the stars from the cemetery with her hand-built telescope.

Jamie's father comes around about the dating but you know something is lurking in the shadows that will prevent them from living happily ever after. The clues about that obstacle are there, but it takes forever for the secret to be shared.

"A Walk to Remember," which provides an opportunity for Moore to sing, features a largely chaste, loving romance between the teens. That's refreshing, and it's good to see a wayward boy like Landon mend his ways and his relationships.

However, so much of what else transpires is sappy and telegraphed to the audience. West, who appears on one of the best shows on television with amazing young actresses, gives life to Landon, but Moore is saddled with a good-girl role that's the screen equivalent of vanilla. Watered-down vanilla.

The Sparks novel took place in the 1950s but the movie is set in the present day, where it feels anachronistic. It wants to deal with the big subjects, but it handles them in CliffsNote style. "A Walk to Remember" is a hodgepodge of a million other movies, most of them far better and more original.

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