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A Walk to Remember

Love means never having to say, "Thank you, Jesus," in this unabashedly old-fashioned melodrama, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks (who also penned the lachrymose Message in a Bottle), and aimed squarely at young fans of pop-tart Mandy Moore. Landon Carter (Shane West) is your typical high school bad-ass, whom we first meet as he's being hauled off to jail in the wake of a gang-initiation prank that's gone awry. But he's also smart (he wants to go to medical school) and more sensitive than he lets on — the kid's tight with his mom (a shockingly aged Daryl Hannah) for Heaven's sake! Naturally, Landon falls in love with class geek-freak Jamie Sullivan (jailbait chanteuse Moore), the Bible-thumping daughter of a minister (Peter Coyote), who likes to look at the stars through a homemade telescope she keeps in a graveyard. All goes well for a while: The youngsters co-star in their high school musical and Landon's former-stoner friends have begun to accept them as a couple when fate (or is it bad screenwriting?) intervenes. It turns that Jamie is dying of Old Movie Disease, a condition which ensures that the closer she gets to becoming worm fodder, the more luminously beautiful she becomes. Needless to say, the dramatics that follow are utter hooey, and to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one would need a heart of stone not to laugh at the big final wedding scene. To their credit, however, the cast treats everything as seriously as if they were doing Euripides, and the filmmakers deserve some credit for limiting Moore to one big musical number, which occurs well before she announces that she's going to the big jukebox in the sky.