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2 reviews, 1 rating

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Choice, The
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by Jaycie

"You bother me. Now leave."
1 stars

"Now pay attention," intones an unenthusiastic bro-country accent at the opening of this movie, "'cause I'm about to tell you the secret to life. You ready? The whole damn thing is about choices." Wow. Insightful. Or at least it might be if it weren't the message of every Nicholas Sparks story ever, and possibly every story ever in general. What do you have for us next, disembodied cowpie? "Everything happens for a reason"?

The Choice is the fourth Sparks movie I've reviewed, and I wish I could say the worst thing about it is how exactly like the others it is. And, for the first two acts, it is. After that, it goes off the rails into the perhaps inevitable admission that Nicholas Sparks has absolutely no respect for women. Sure, he's already failed the Bechdel test in numerous ways; the only crucial choice (see, cowpie?) for any of his heroines is True Love and Literally Anything Else, and opting for Literally Anything Else inevitably results in depression and infidelity, if she doesn't change her mind within 15 minutes first. In The Choice, he decides to dispense with female agency altogether and let the dudes make all the decisions. This added creepiness would be an interesting twist if it were intentional.

This year's beefcake is Benjamin Walker, who despite the beef has an unusually craggy face and bad hairstyle that makes him look a generation too old for his character. He plays Travis, who whiles the day away having seemingly endless barbecues (drink) with his friends in his coastal North Carolina hometown (drink). Enter new neighbor Gabby (Alexandra Palmer), who takes an instant dislike to Travis on account of a) his loud music (to be clear, they are the same age, at least in theory) and b) her erroneous belief that his dog knocked up hers. Travis is baffled that a woman might not enjoy his company; however, his sister Stephanie (Maggie Grace) knows immediately that these two are each other's destinies (drink). So do all his friends, plus Gabby's rich parents (Wilbur Fitzgerald and Callan White) (also, drink). But, alas, there are obstacles in the way; they are Ryan (Tom Welling), a bigger guy with a better job (drink), and Monica (Alexandra Daddario), who is better-looking but a little too accepting of her status as bringer of frosty beverages and occasional spooge bucket (drink).

Also, there's a rowboat! (drink) And a carnival! (drink) And deep thoughts about the moon! (drink) And montages that make you wonder if we've cut to a North Carolina tourism infomercial! (drink) And Travis only has one living parent! (drink) Who gives him sage advice! (drink) And everyone owns a beach house! (drink) And everyone can read each other's personalities perfectly after a single conversation, or no conversation at all! (drink) OK, let's give your liver a break.

To be fair, Gabby's pissy behavior toward Travis is mildly entertaining, at least until you realize she's going to forget why she hates him as soon as it's convenient. There's also a well-deserved punch to the face. But Sparks expects us to root for a woman who cheats on her intended with a man who contemplates disregarding her wishes for her own medical care completely. I won't tell you which choice he makes at this juncture, except to say that it's the one you'd expect to piss you off more. Also, cancer is not involved - not here, anyway. So put the glass down.

This is the first time I've really noticed how on-the-nose the direction in Sparks movies can get. Director Ross Katz apparently learned nothing at Quentin Tarantino's knee (seriously, this guy worked on Reservoir Dogs!); here, he exhibits no more creativity than matching the scene's mood to the weather. "They're having fun! Make it sunny and sparkly!" "Something bad is about to happen! Cue lightning!" "He's distraught! Commence graying sky!" Genius. I don't recommend reading the book from whence this movie came; I have tried reading Sparks novels before, and they all feature 30-page info dumps in the opening chapters and unceasing get-to-know-you conversations in the middle. However, if you decide to try it anyway, I will bet money that it includes the line "The rain keeps falling, and so do my tears." Actual money.

I mentioned that Gabby's early attitude toward Travis was "mildly entertaining." I say "mildly" only because it's new; when Palmer is required to bitch at him, she does not only chew the scenery, but swallows it, digests it and craps it back out right onto the set. She has an odd way of delivering every line and every expression like a Bible Belt freshman after her first round of shots. Walker is unremarkable, as are most Sparks leading men. I will just point out that a previous role required him to slay vampires in a stovepipe hat and a forthcoming role requires him to help a French king get mermaid powers, and both of those films are more dignified than this.

If life really is about choices, choose to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies instead of this insipid waste of 111 minutes.

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originally posted: 02/07/16 11:18:02
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User Comments

5/05/16 David Hollingsworth Another tired Nicholas Sparks cheese-fest. 1 stars
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  05-Feb-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2016


  DVD: 19-Apr-2016

Directed by
  Ross Katz

Written by
  Bryan Sipe

  Teresa Palmer
  Benjamin Walker
  Alexandra Daddario
  Maggie Grace
  Tom Welling
  Tom Wilkinson

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