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Choice, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Pretty Much A Cinematic Kobayashi Maru"
1 stars

As the result of a rather oddball quirk of scheduling, the screening of “The Choice,” the latest big-screen adaptation of a best seller by the tragically prolific Nicholas Sparks, occurred right after the press viewing of “Pride & Prejudice and Zombies,” the film version of the inexplicably popular book that took the Jane Austen classic and, thanks to it being out of copyright, added hordes of flesh-eating ghouls into the mix. Both films are, perhaps unsurprisingly, bottomlessly terrible but those in danger of mixing the two of them up will be relieved to know that there are two major points of distinction between them. For one thing, in the case of “The Choice,” it comes from an author who is bad enough to actually have a movie this lousy connected to their name. For another, while “PPZ,” as the kids are calling it, is lousy with undead creatures stumbling across the screen looking for brains to snack on, any similar hordes attempting the same thing in “The Choice” would wind up dying of starvation long before the end credits.

Set in the same general North Carolina location as the majority of Sparks’s other stories, “The Choice” tells the story of hunky-but-laid-back vet Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker) and beautiful-but-tightly-wound Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer). Their initial meetings are less than auspicious—she is annoyed that he plays his music loud late at night while sitting outside and contemplating the ocean ( and since he is playing Ram Jam’s “Black Betty,” you can hardly blame her) and gets especially upset when she becomes convinced that his loyal dog has knocked up her loyal dog (I won’t reveal how this plot thread develops but to say that it doesn’t exactly speak well for Gabby’s diagnostic capabilities). Sure, they seem completely wrong for each other and they are already seeing other people—she has a blandly handsome doctor fiancee (Tom Welling) and he has an on-again/off-again girlfriend (Alexandra Daddario) who comes and goes in accordance with the dictates of the plot—but eventually commence with the romantic gamboling and stuff. Of course, that darn fiancee of Gabby’s proves to be a bit of a hiccup down the road (the girlfriend is surprisingly amenable to being cast aside) but that is soon taken care of and Travis and Gabby are soon married and raising two young kids who are almost, though not quite, as adorable as they are.

In case you are thinking that this story is somewhat lacking in conflict, especially coming from Sparks, who loves to fill his stories with melodramatic plot twists and tragic developments, it is at this point in the film that the other shoe drops at last and that those readers who prefer to avoid spoilers should check out at this point. Then again, considering that the very first scene in the movie involves Travis visiting the local hospital and the commercials show Gabby’s car getting T-boned, and the fact that it is based on a Nicholas Sparks book, the fact that something awful happens cannot really come as that much of a surprise. Anyway, Gabby’s accident lands her in a coma and Travis dutifully visits her every day. Alas, it is close to the 90th day since the accident, the point where the chance of coma patients making a recovery supposedly dwindle away to nothing, according to her doctor. (As it turns out, the doctor in charge of her case is the ex-fiancee because of course he is.) Sure, Gabby filled out all the Do Not Resuscitate forms so as not to spend her life in this manner but darn it, Travis is just certain that he knows better and that she wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing today. As a result, he is faced with a terrible choice—does he pull the plug at the 90-day mark in accordance with her wishes or does he ignore all of that and let her waste away on the infinitesimal hope that she will somehow snap back to life as fresh as the proverbial daisy.

To date, I have disliked every film based on a Nicholas Sparks books but not always to the same degree. For example, efforts like “Message in a Bottle” and “A Walk to Remember,” while still intrinsically terrible, were a little more tolerable because I happened to like the actors in them (the triumvirate of Kevin Costner, Paul Newman and Robin Wright in the former and Mandy Moore in the latter) and found that they distracted from the overall silliness to a slight degree. On the other hand, a film like “The Notebook,” in which the pain of Alzheimer’s was reduced to just another storytelling gimmick, was so distasteful that not even the presence of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams could keep me from feeling anything but total contempt for its grotesque excesses. “The Choice” winds up landing closer to “The Notebook” end of that particular scale because while it is just dumb for the first hour or so, the stuff in the second half regarding the decision to pull the plug on Gabby is unbelievably tacky and off-putting. Not only is it handled in the most tin-eared and mawkish manner imaginable, even by Sparks standards, but the notion that Travis is willing to consider ignoring Gabby’s wishes in order to get his own way (an echo of an earlier scene in which he essentially browbeats her into accepting his marriage proposal even after she vehemently turns him down) offers the undeniable suggestion that the menfolk always know what is best in regards to their women. What is even more aggravating is how the story, having built everything up to the painful choice that Travis must make, then throws in a last-minute twist so that he doesn’t have to make a decision one way or another, a move so shameless that it almost defies rational thought.

The only thing that keeps “The Choice” from sinking to the absolute lows of “The Notebook” is that the whole thing is so dumb in so many ways that it is almost impossible to take seriously on any level. In fact, with perhaps just a few minor adjustments, the film could actually profitably pass itself off as a straight-faced spoof of the entire Sparks subgenre thanks to the number of unintentional laughs it inspires. (The Rifftrax crew should seriously consider tackling it at some point because it lends itself to any number of potential punchlines.) As our star-crossed lovers, Palmer is pretty but bland—you can’t help but wonder what anyone would see in her when Alexandra Daddario, who is more than her equal in the looks department and somehow manages to bring a certain degree of personality to her otherwise insultingly-developed character, is there for the taking. And yet, she comes off as a regular firecracker in comparison to Benjamin Walker (yes, the one-time Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter himself), a guy who appears to be comprised entirely from bits and pieces of any number of contemporary second-tier Hollywood hunks (alas, all the wrong bits and pieces) that have been awkwardly topped off by what appears to be E.G. Marshall’s toupee from when he played the president in “Superman II.” And then there is the aforementioned ending, or as it is soon to be known, “Holy crap, what was up with that ending?” I don’t want to spoil it for you in case you somehow get roped into sitting through this but if you still cherish the image of the bad guy getting killed by Sparks’s deus ex treehouse in “The Lucky One” and have yearned for more finales in which the fates of the principal characters somehow revolve a rickety wooden construct (no, not the screenplay), then you—and only you—are in luck here.

Turgid, moronic, shabbily constructed, borderline sexist and possessing more laughs, albeit of the bad kind, than most conventional comedies of late, “The Choice” is a terrible film and if it does score at the box office, that will say less about its intrinsic worth that it does about the relative lack of smart romantic dramas these days. At this point, most of you are probably expecting me to make some kind of joke about someone should have pulled the plug on this film altogether. Actually, I am going to resist that temptation on the basis that I suspect many of my colleagues will be doing more or less the same thing in their review. Instead, I will simply advise you to pay attention to the scene where our hero is given his wife’s Do Not Resuscitate order to read because it contains the best writing in the entire film. Not the scene—the actual DNR form.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29763&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/04/16 18:00:00
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User Comments

5/04/16 David Hollingsworth Another tired Nicholas Sparks cheese-fest. 1 stars
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  05-Feb-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2016


  DVD: 19-Apr-2016

Directed by
  Ross Katz

Written by
  Bryan Sipe

  Teresa Palmer
  Benjamin Walker
  Alexandra Daddario
  Maggie Grace
  Tom Welling
  Tom Wilkinson

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