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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.