The Choice online movie review - Presented with "The Choice", I'd rather just watch "The Notebook" again.
On a scale of 1 to 10, "The Choice" (PG-13, 1:51) is an 11 ? and that's a fact. Hmmm. Maybe I should clarify. It's a fact this is the 11th Nicholas Sparks book to come to the big screen and that's significant.
Although the most popular Sparks adaptation is 2004's "The Notebook", the author's big-screen streak started at the end of the last century with the Kevin Costner starrer "Message in a Bottle". The film that rounds out Sparks' first cinematic decathlon is 2015's "The Longest Ride". On one hand, movie adaptations of his books have made a lot of money ? an average of nearly 2 ½ times what they cost to make (and that's in U.S. box office receipts alone)! On the other hand, only one Sparks film ("The Notebook") garnered over 50% positive critical reviews as counted by Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. But who listens to the critics, right? I like to think you're reading this review because the Movie Fan FB page is run by movie fans and for movie fans. But (big but)? in this case? we agree with the critics. We've enjoyed the Nicholas Sparks movies that we've seen (to varying degrees, of course) ? including "The Longest Ride" (his last one before this one) but "The Choice"? Not so much. Allow me to explain? Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker) is a free-wheeling bachelor who lives in a big house on the waters of (what some people have taken to calling) the "Inner Banks" of North Carolina. He has a boat, he's handy with a hammer and he loves animals so much that he became a veterinarian. (Are you swooning yet?) He's also handsome and charming ? and he knows it. In fact, he uses his positives to flirt shamelessly and sometimes dates steadily? but never really commits. His new neighbor is Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer). (Naturally, she lives right next door. All the better for Travis and Gabby to eyeball each other.) Gabby is pretty and has a killer bod. She's smart enough to be a medical student, assertive enough to complain when the noise level next door interrupts her studying and she's a fairly deep, spiritual person. She also loves animals. She and Travis each have big dogs, a female for Gabby and a male for Travis. Other than their pets, they have very little in common and their personalities often clash. Their first encounter includes Gabby yelling at Travis and Travis telling Gabby that she bothers him. In spite of (or maybe because of) all that, of course, they fall in love. (And if you think that's a spoiler, then you probably don't know who Nicholas Sparks is and probably wouldn't be going to see this movie anyway.) It also won't come as a surprise to most Movie Fans that Travis and Gabby's romance quickly becomes more complicated than simply some differences in temperament and the way they see the world. For starters, they're both already in relationships with other people. Gabby is practically engaged to the kind and handsome young Dr. Ryan McCarthy (Tom Welling) and Travis is "off-and-on" with the beautiful and devoted Monica (Alexandra Daddario). But that doesn't stop Travis or Gabby from flirting with each other and spending time together privately, and doing? other stuff, when Ryan is out of town and when Monica isn't around. Meanwhile, Travis is being encouraged by his sister, Stephanie (Maggie Grace) and his father, Dr. Shep (Tom Wilkinson), who owns the veterinary practice where Travis works. Of course, sooner or later, Monica is going to come around again and Ryan is going to come back home. In the interest of avoiding actual spoilers, I won't tell you how those inevitable encounters go and I won't tell you about "the choice" referenced in the movie's title? even though the first scene strongly hints at it.
"The Choice" is predictable, overly formulaic and not very romantic. The movie emphasizes the cute over the cuddly. The cute scenes are a mixture of kind of cute and mildly annoying, while the romantic scenes need more? Sparks. The problems start with Sparks' over reliance on an increasingly tired formula, Bryan Sipe's unrealistic, immoral (with all that cheating and deception) and sometimes silly script and Ross Katz' uninspired direction, but the biggest problem is the two romantic leads. Walker seems to be borrowing too heavily from the Matthew McConaughey Book of Southern Charm, and, especially at certain angles, Walker looks distractingly like a young Liam Neeson (a perception just reinforced by seeing his character's sister played by the same young woman who played Neeson's daughter in the "Taken" films). For her part, Palmer doesn't do anything to make herself more alluring when her character starts to show interest in Walker's character ? or even make any effort to seem likable. Their acting is barely passable and, even worse, they have about as much on-screen chemistry as a couple of empty test tubes. As bad as all that is, the portion of the movie after the film's titular dilemma is revealed, but before THE choice is actually made is interminable. Hard-core Nicholas Sparks fans may like this movie, but presented with? the choice, I'd suggest just watching "The Notebook" again. My choice is to give this unromantic romance a "D+", while hoping that the next two Sparks adaptations ("At First Sight" and "True Believer") manage to be more touching? or, at least tolerable.