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The Choice Reviews

Reviewed By: Tim Holland

"Now, pay attention because I'm about to tell you the secret to life," says easygoing veterinarian Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker) at the beginning of The Choice, the latest romantic drama to be adapted from a tear-jerking Nicholas Sparks novel. "Ready? The whole damn thing is about choices." And Travis has a whopper of a choice to make as he walks into a local hospital carrying a bouquet of flowers and a heavy heart. It's a choice that will determine his entire future, and anyone who has seen the trailer will know from the get-go exactly what that choice is.But before Travis makes his fateful decision, the story backs up seven years to reveal how he met and fell in love with Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer), a headstrong medical intern from an upper-class Charleston family, who moves in next door to his picturesque seaside home in North Carolina. Sparks immediately fly when Gabby angrily confronts Travis over his loud music and accuses his roving pooch of impregnating her dog. Of course, these two opposites are destined to get together -- this is a Nicholas Sparks movie after all -- despite the fact that he has a girlfriend and she is practically engaged to Ryan McCarthy (Tom Welling), an established, wealthy doctor. Unfortunately for Ryan, he has to travel to Atlanta for a few weeks on business, and while he's away, Gabby finally gives in to Travis' constant flirting as the two fall helplessly in love. Everything is going great, but then Ryan returns and clouds the picture. Suddenly, Gabby isn't so sure of anything. Which man will she choose?Obviously, Gabby's choice is never really in doubt, even though it takes a while for the gal to make up her mind. And after she settles on her man, the two can't live happily ever after. They must encounter tragedy; it's a staple of all Nicholas Sparks stories. Here, the tragedy in question -- spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't seen the trailer -- is a car accident that leaves Gabby comatose. Will she live? Will she die? Will Travis find the courage to pull the plug? It's a monumental choice indeed.The Choice treads typical Nicholas Sparks terrain. There's the sunny seaside setting, discreet PG-13 sex, thin discussion of religion, a single parent who loses a spouse, the aforementioned tragedy in which a lead character dies (or nearly does so), and a protagonist facing a difficult choice that will alter the course of his or her life. The best thing about the movie is its stellar cast. Walker, a Georgia native, oozes Southern charm and good ol' boy sensibility. His aw-shucks approach to life is irresistible, and his chemistry with the equally good Palmer makes the predictable, overly sentimental story work as well as it does. Welling, Maggie Grace, and Tom Wilkinson also lend great support in mostly thankless supporting roles.The Choice could use some trimming. It's at least 20 minutes too long -- another Sparks trademark -- and doesn't know when to end. The final half hour, in particular, is an interminable slog as it works overtime to open up our tear ducts and vigorously yank our heartstrings. Fans of the author's books and movies won't be disappointed by the latest adaptation: It hits all of the usual melodramatic beats with clinical procession, and it's pleasant enough to watch. While it isn't as good as The Notebook or Safe Haven, The Choice is a vast improvement over Sparks' 2014 offering, the nearly unwatchable The Best of Me. So, should you shell out your hard-earned money to see it? If you're a fan, yes. If not, stay far, far away. The choice is yours.