- Rated PG -13 for some sexuality and violence.
- Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson
- Written by Will Fetters (based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks)
- Directed by Scott Hicks
- Running time: 1hr 40min
Nicholas Sparks is all the rage right now. Ever since THE NOTEBOOK (which I loved), he's been on fire. I also enjoyed DEAR JOHN, but didn't care for NIGHTS OF RODANTHE or MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE.
Zac Efron stars as Logan, a marine who finds a picture of a beautiful woman in the aftermath of a battle in the Middle East. He keeps the photo throughout his tour of duties and feels like it brought him good luck. Once he returns, he travels to North Carolina in search of this mystery woman in the picture. He finds her. She is a single mom named Beth who works at a farm living with her son and mother. Logan approaches her but instead of explaining why he came, he accepts a job offer to train dogs at the farm. He finds out during this that the picture was Beth's brother, who died in the war. Of course the two fall in love, but Beth's beer drinking Sheriff ex-husband doesn't approve, as he threatens their relationship many different ways. And what will Beth think once she finds out that Logan has her brother's picture?
I am not against cheesy cornball romances. I even enjoy crying a lot at movies. But this is way too much. Director Scott Hicks (responsible for Academy Award Nominee SHINE), has a wonderful eye for scenery and composition. The movie looks lush and beautiful, as it seems nearly half of the film was shot during magic hour. Unfortunately the story is TOO cliched. I usually don't care if a film is predictable just as long as it's well made. But, this is over-cliched.
I mean, as soon as the ex-husband shows up with a beer in his hand, asking for his son... LOOK OUT! I guess he's the bad guy? This character is so evil and bad that it gets to the point where it became a parody. I was laughing out just how much of a douchebag this guy was. Also, the romance is laughably over the top. When we first meet Beth, she is walking out of a barn with the sunset behind her and the soothing music just oozes out of the speakers. Come on, guys! Too much. And that's just scratching the surface.
The film is also lazy in it's writing. Instead of showing scenes with actual dialogue and character interaction between the two lovebirds while they were falling in love, the filmmakers just replace all that with countless montages. Seriously, I don't think I've seen this many montages in a movie all my life. If I were playing a drinking game and took a shot every time a montage came on, I would've been hammered before the first half was over. Montages are not a substitute for storytelling.
The acting isn't dreadful. Zac Efron is fine as Logan. Taylor Schilling is decent, though I thought she looked far too old for Efron (even though she's not 30 yet in real life). Blythe Danner is the typcial cute mom that gives good advice laced with smart comments, usually with a smug look on her face. Jay Ferguson probably did what he was supposed to do as the a-hole of an ex-husband, but his character is outrageous.
No, the big problem is just how manufactured this movie feels. There is not one real, natural, or genuine second in this movie. It's a standard, stock romance that felt more like the filmmakers were completing a checklist of "romantic drama" story cliches, than telling an actual story. There are much better full blown romances out there than this. I laughed a lot in this movie, and that wasn't intentional.
*1/2 (out of ****)