Review - Matt Mungle
**In theaters February 5th 2016**
Synopsis: Travis and Gabby first meet as neighbors in a small coastal town and wind up in a relationship that is tested by life's most defining events.
Review: The poster for THE CHOICE is a dead giveaway that it is based on a Nicholas Sparks book. Sure they look all happy now but you know that something seriously bad is going to happen to one of them and the other will have to find a way through it. Sparks 101. Luckily the cast is adorable enough to salvage a small morsel of goodness in a pot luck stew of a script.
Travis (Benjamin Walker) and Gabby (Teresa Palmer) find themselves in a predictable Rom-Dram scenario and the fact that they can't stand each other at the beginning of the film is only a formality. They drive each other crazy which drives them straight into each other’s arms. His southern boy charm makes good kindling for her feisty personality; igniting them into a blaze of attraction. But they both have some choices to make - hence the title - which at times are clear to the audience and other times not so understandable. The path the story takes to get from opening credit to final tear drop is a mix match of holes, rushed decisions, and hurried plot points. All of which are draped in that signature Sparks fashion.
Palmer fans will appreciate the effort she makes in this one. You like Gabby. She is strong, determined and on a smart path both personally and vocationally. It is this fact that makes it so confusing when you see the choices she makes. Walker has a harder task bringing Travis into some form of three dimensional being. There are so many facets to his character and many of them are in direct conflict with each other. Depending on the scene you may have a strong confident ladies man or a shy country bumpkin. This is in no part the fault of Walker but falls solidly on a script that does not have a firm grip on its own main characters.
Fans of the genre and of prior Nicholas Sparks films may feel a bit cheated in this one. In the past his films have succeeded because he captures human relationships when they are most vulnerable and allows us to live through them for 115 minutes or so. He creates a place and time that feels nostalgic and makes us want to see love win. In this one it felt as if he absent mindlessly jumbled up a bunch of spare notions and discarded ideas. There is very little synergy and a total lack of cohesion. Each scene feels disjointed from the prior so that the audience cannot settle into a nice romantic groove. Even the dramatic climax seems cheapened by a desire to emotionally manipulate instead of tenderly touching.
THE CHOICE is rated PG-13 for sexual content and some thematic issues. It is an adult themed film both in story and content. Sparks movies are never overtly sexual or salacious and here it remains fairly tame. I give it 2 out of 5 wind chimes. This film may have been the victim of mass production. It does feel more like it was made on an assembly line instead of from the heart. And that is never a good choice for a film prompting us to choose love.