Starring Benjamin Walker. Teresa Palmer and Tom Wilkinson
Two-and-a-half out of five stars
If you have a choice, wait for it to come to cable.
"The Choice" is the eleventh love story from Nicholas Sparks to hit the big screen. They’re the perfect thing to pair with Valentine’s Day: both have the potential to be magical, but you’ve learned not to expect much out of either so as not to be disappointed. "The Choice" fits right into that mold.
It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. Benjamin Walker ("In the Heart of the Sea," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter") stars as handsome Southern veterinarian Travis Parker, an easygoing guy who likes to fish and hang out with his dog. Teresa Palmer ("Warm Bodies," "Point Break") is Gabby Holland, the tightly wound medical student who moves in next door. From the first five minutes of the movie we know they’re going to get together. It’s just a matter of how they get there.
There are obstacles, of course: courtship, and – naturally, for this genre -- a coma. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, it’s all in the trailer. Way too much is in the trailer.
Walker is charming and likeable, with his slow Southern charm. And Tom Wilkinson, who plays his dad, is a welcome addition to almost any movie.
As for Palmer, that’s one of the movie’s problems. Her character is rather abrasive, which is compounded by Palmer’s occasional enthusiastic but unnatural overacting. And her accent (she’s supposed to be from South Carolina) goes in and out like waves on the shore – I picked up right away that she wasn’t American, which is fine, but she has enough trouble trying to hide her Australian accent under a flat American accent. Adding a Southern drawl to the mix is only asking for trouble. I’m by no means saying she’s a bad actress – she’s not. But this role isn’t exactly suited to her talents.
As for the accent thing, she’s not alone. Tom Wilkinson, who’s British but here is supposed to be a native North Carolinian, makes almost zero attempt to sound like his Southern son. Maybe accents get thicker with each generation? Who knows, but it’s hard to get lost in the story when you’re spending the whole time wondering where the actors are from. Walker is from Georgia, by the way, which is why he gets a pass.
One thing "The Choice" does have going for it is its setting. I may not have loved the movie, but I loved where it takes place. The waters of North Carolina, the houses with the docks and the rolling green lawns, the afternoons spent in the sun overlooking a dock while the dogs eat fish guts out of a pail -- that’s all good stuff.
Also good are the dogs. Kudos to whomever decided to give so much screen time to the adorable St. Bernard, Golden Retriever, and a couple of puppies. I’d like to have seen more of that love story.
"The Choice" is highly predictable, often cheesy, and emotionally manipulative…and even so, you still might shed a tear. A colleague of mine admitted she didn’t like it, but still cried a bit at the end. Should you rush out to see it in theaters? No need. But if it comes on cable one night while you’re snuggling with your honey, you’ve probably watched worse.