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Dustin Putman

The Choice  (2016)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2 Stars
(Release Date: May 3, 2016) – If Benjamin Franklin had lived during the early twenty-first century, he may very well have amended his "death and taxes" quote to include a third certainty in life: the annual release of a Nicholas Sparks film adaptation. Movies based on the author's best-sellers have historically been made with varying degrees of success (some of the best include 2002's "A Walk to Remember," 2004's "The Notebook," and 2008's "Nights in Rodanthe"), but at this point they have become so prevalent and their plots so derivative it is easy to guess where each one is headed. "The Choice" plays like a Sparks greatest-hits compilation, from the Meet Cute between sparring opposites attracted to each other, to the initial significant others who are tidily swept aside once our protagonists get together, to the trip to the carnival, to a scene of getting caught in the rain, to the urgent, food-tossing PG-13 sex scene atop the kitchen table, to a third-act accident/disease/tragedy putting our lovebirds' happily ever after in jeopardy.

Loud music and suspicions that her dog has been knocked up by his canine are the catalysts which bring together Wilmington, N.C., neighbors Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) and Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker). She is a studious medical student with a doctor boyfriend, Ryan (Tom Welling). He's a country-boy veterinarian who has a way with the ladies. Despite her protestations, Gabby is smitten by Travis, and he with her. Playing hard to get can only last so long before Gabby's defenses are torn down and she must figure out how to break it off easily with Ryan. She has a feeling Travis may be "the one" for her, but as he foreshadows in his opening voiceover narration, the smallest everyday decisions sometimes have the power to change one's life forever.

Directed by Ross Katz (2014's "Adult Beginners"), "The Choice" is a by-the-numbers affair with one major plus: Benjamin Walker (2015's "In the Heart of the Sea") and Teresa Palmer (2013's "Warm Bodies") are an appealing match with comfortable, if not torch-worthy, chemistry. Were they in a screenplay better than the one first-time writer Bryan Sipe has cooked up, all involved might have excelled. Regrettably, this is a film modeled first and foremost on obligations, the characters guided by the invisible strings of a manipulative, shopworn plot that ultimately devises forced melodrama because it has nowhere else of interest to go. Meanwhile, thankless supporting parts are handed to Maggie Grace (2015's "Taken 3"), sporting an unfortunate wig as Travis' sister Stephanie; Alexandra Daddario (2015's "San Andreas"), whose good-hearted Monica is smart enough to finally realize Travis' heart lies elsewhere, and Tom Wilkinson (2015's "Unfinished Business"), as Travis' widower dad and fellow vet Dr. Shep. "The Choice" aims to pull its audience's heartstrings—really, this is its only aim—but each narrative step is so rigidly prefabricated it is difficult to feel much of anything.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"The Choice" may grow a bit stale as it follows the tried-and-true Nicholas Sparks formula, but there is nothing negative to say about its lovely, bucolic 1080p transfer. The golden, sun-dappled hues of the North Carolina coast sparkle here, each frame vividly and dimensionally bringing the characters and their beauteous surrounding into the viewers' home theater. This high level of detail and clarity more often than not bleeds over to its 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. "The Choice" is not demo-worthy material—it is dialogue-centric and has little onscreen action to show off to guests—but it is often quite effective in its subtlety. While dialogue may be a tad low within the mix, it is always intelligible and rarely noticeable. Music and other peripheral sound effects provide ambiance in the back speakers, but it is two instances involving thunderstorms where the surrounds kick in, the pouring rain and booms of thunder offering full immersion.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director Ross Katz and actor Benjamin Walker
  • "Cinematic Choices: Making The Choice" Featurette (19:20, HD)
  • "Choosing Home: Nicholas Sparks and North Carolina" Featurette (8:53, HD)
  • "Nicholas Sparks with..." Featurette (32:37, HD) – Interviews with director Ross Katz, actor Teresa Palmer and actor Benjamin Walker
  • "Molly & Moby: Choice Dogs" Featurette (5:47, HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (2:47, HD)
Bottom Line
Best-selling author Nicholas Sparks clearly has a devoted fanbase, though the receding box-office returns of his film adaptations signals that his formulaic narratives may be starting to wear out their welcomes. "The Choice" features an attractive cast and pleasant scenery, but not much to set it apart from countless other like-minded romances. Lionsgate's Blu-ray release looks gorgeous and is filled with many quality special features (I loved the sit-downs between Sparks and key cast and crew). For fans, this is definitely the way to see the film and comes recommended. For those who have grown weary of Sparks, it would be wise to rent—preferably on a lazy weekend afternoon.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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