Movie Review: ‘THE CHOICE’ Drowns Us with the Same Ol’ Bubbly

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Preston Barta // Editor

THE CHOICE | 111 min | PG-13
Director: Ross Katz
Cast: Benjamin Walker, Teresa PalmerMaggie GraceTom WilkinsonTom Welling and Alexandra Daddario

What makes a movie so appalling that it transitions from ordinary ineptitude into something of true wonder and glory? Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “So bad, it’s good.” Many movies reach this status, from SHOWGIRLS to CON AIR.

Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s born by earnest efforts to make an authentic-feeling film that instead result in a movie to love for all the wrong reasons. The latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, THE CHOICE, is one such movie.

This roll-in-the-hay schmaltz involves a highly original story: Guy (Benjamin Walker) meets girl (Teresa Palmer), and neither likes the other, but give it an hour and they fall in love.

Triangles are the next cliche to arrive, featuring the girl’s second love interest (Tom Welling), but guy No. 1 is just too charming for this girl to pass up. So naturally, they reunite just in time for a Nicholas Sparks trademark accident — which has a mysterious resolution.

Sparks has had a good run of books turned into critical messes. Sure, we all drooled over the love story in THE NOTEBOOK and A WALK TO REMEMBER — even his last outing, THE LONGEST RIDE, wasn’t all bad. At this point, however, the beloved author is stealing from himself, throwing his story lines in a Yahtzee cup, giving it a shake and connecting the dots with whatever dice face up. You can always expect the same setting (North Carolina), same concept (opposites attract), rain, rowboats and a tragedy of some sort.

THE CHOICE contains all those ingredients, but one must commend Sparks for attempting a love story with some real human moments. After the butterflies and first kisses, we catch a glimpse of rare reality: Our couple struggles, tries to find time to spend with one another and are faced with life’s most treacherous obstacles.

There are also moments that do genuinely make you laugh — puppies anyone? — and others that punch you in the chest, especially near the film’s close. But for the most part, this is a greatest-hits Sparks film that’s so terribly written you can’t help but roll your eyes, have a good chuckle and repeat.

THE CHOICE opens tonight in participating early showings, and everywhere tomorrow.

Our Interviews with Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer:

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.