MOVIE: THE CHOICE
STARRING: TERESA PALMER; BENJAMIN WALKER; MAGGIE GRACE; TOM WILKINSON
DIRECTED BY: ROSS KATZ
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The Choice is the newest Nicholas Sparks novel adapted for the big screen, just in time for the traditional valentines day season. I am shocked to discover that Sparks' novels have been turned into cinematic romance fluff, every year since 2012, and began with the 1999 Kevin Costner flop- Message in a Bottle. While the writer has milked the success of films such as The Notebook and Dear John, I guess the market for cheesy romances still has a beating heart. The problem now, is if you know the plot for one Nicholas Sparks novel, you know them all. The Choice, directed by Ross Katz and written by Bryan Sipe, looks glossy and pretty, but could be the weakest Sparks installment to date. And that includes last years- The Longest Ride.
The setting is an ocean front summer home in Wilmington, North Carolina, where we meet the tall, slender, southern charmer- Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). He is a smooth talker, with a southern twang, but keeps his distance from his on again, off again girlfriend- Monica (Alexandra Daddario). His character is constantly posing on his boat, hardly ever wears a shirt, with his “shades” on, and often sits in a lawn chair, deep in thought. That is, until Gabby (Teresa Palmer; Warm Bodies) the girl next door, moves in and “bothers the heck” out of Travis. Their “meet-cute” moment is not romantic, but simply an example of proper scene blocking. Gabby is studying to become a residential nurse, and the music next-door is too darn loud. The two bicker and pick at each other, showing there is clearly an attraction. Only problem is, Gabby is dating the doctor (Smallville's Tom Welling) at the hospital she works at. The triangle is set, but it's never a real threat; We see where this is going.
What director Ross Katz (Taking Chance; Adult Beginners) has unintentionally done well, is create a video for boosting tourism for the North Carolina vacation spots. The look of The Choice is lush with color, looking like a dreamlike escape to a fantasy island. Yet, it does not highlight the lifeless personalities of the characters on the screen. Gabby and Travis are beautiful, but boring people, who fall out of love with other beautiful boring people. The skies are bright blue, our characters gather with friends on the beach to barbeque, while throwing the football around. It looks like one long commercial for Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy. The homes should be on the front cover of Better Homes & Gardens; even the golden retriever and St. Bernard conjure up oohhs and ahhhs more than the humans. Whatever world The Choice is inhabiting, it's a place where the sites are vibrant and the dogs steal the show.
So, the boyfriend goes away on business because the script dictates it, which is Gabby and Travis's time to fall in love. Although, we do not sense a slightest worry from Gabby. Soon enough, she is eating cake with his family, enjoying the company of Travis' sister Stephanie (Maggie Grace) and his veterinarian father Shep- played by Tom Wilkinson, who is not given much to do, other than provide his fatherly wisdom. Gabby is surprised when the boyfriend returns, feels conflicted to choose between the two, but says yes to a proposal from the doctor. She did not seem to mind inviting Travis over for a romantic dinner earlier? Does she really need to make a decision? What happened to wanting to become a nurse?
Surprisingly, this conflict is not the true “choice” that must be resolved. Travis finally confirms his love by chasing after her in an awkward engagement scene that resembles the finale of any season of ABC's The Bachelor. The film zooms into the future of their lives; two children are born, aging rapidly, while everyone around them stays the same age. Then, when a car accident leaves Gabby in a coma, Travis is forced to make a “choice” between holding on, or letting go.
By the end, The Choice is a film that lacks any real conflict. Both Walker and Palmer are serviceable love interests, but the material lets them down. It simply meanders along the checklist of typical Nicholas Sparks themed dramatics. A friendly moment in the rain? Check. A romantic trip in a row boat? Check. A character must choose between two love interests? Check. Romantic cuddling under the stars? Check. A loved one's struggle in a hospital bed? Check. Over and over again, the parts are rearranged, but the results are the same. If you have a chance to pick between the romantic dinner or The Choice, choose wisely and go with the food. It'll leave a better taste in your mouth.
1 ½ Stars
Written by: Leo Brady