There’s a temptation on my part to just create a basic template for the roughly annual release of a new Nicholas Sparks film adaptation. Even if each story is technically slightly different from other Sparks adaptations, each story does tend to share a lot of basic material with at least some of the other stories. With The Choice, though, the 11th in a line of Sparks adaptations actually manages to fumble in a different way than many of its predecessors: there’s no real third-party threat to the relationship at the center of the story. By that, I mean any person who is actively trying to keep the couple apart. That figure isn’t one that’s normally welcome in these films, but the absence of that type of figure in this film helps in making The Choice one of the dullest stories in this line to date.
Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker) is a veterinarian in a small North Carolina town. When he first meets his new neighbor, medical student Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer), he finds a woman who challenges him. But the two grow closer, particularly when Gabby’s boyfriend Ryan (Tom Welling) heads out of town for a few weeks. The two ultimately profess their love for one another, and…that’s it. Ryan’s shuffled off to the side, and outside of a freak accident that bookends the film, that’s all of the narrative thrust.
The freak accident, of course, is another significant factor in many Sparks stories. The way it’s played here, though, is far too predictable. As ridiculous as some of the twists are in other Sparks adaptations, at least they provoke an actual reaction. It’s far too easy to guess how the film will end once it comes into play, especially since the opening scenes take place before the flashback through the relationship.
The Choice is also not helped by its choice of leads. It appears we’re at the point where they aren’t casting relatively big names for the lead roles in these films, which is fine. And even the most experienced of actors can’t make a bad script into a great film. But Walker and Palmer may make for one of the (if not the) least convincing couples in a Nicholas Sparks film adaptation to date. Walker’s laid-back bro-ness doesn’t quite translate into the epitome of (white, Southern) male sex/relationship appeal that the leads normally follow. And Palmer? She’s…there. Just there.
At the quickened rate these adaptations are now coming, I know that we’ll see many more of these adaptations in the future. Whatever charms the earlier films had will diminish as these variations on a particular narrative increase. Still, there’s something to be said for putting in at least a little effort. The Choice shows what happens when the choice is made not to make an effort.