The Choice: Romantic tale that’s tough to love

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2 out of 4 stars

Beware: It’s happened again.

For the seventh time in six years, a Nicholas Sparks book is coming to a theater near you. Men are cringing, knowing it’s only a matter of time before their significant others rope them into seeing yet another one of his books-turned-chick-flicks that are as white as a Tea Party rally.

It’s not that Sparks’ most recent movie, The Choice, is above average. It’s just too predictable – just like the bestselling author’s last six books that have gone from the shelf to the screen.

It’s called The Choice, but let’s face it, there is truly no “choice” here. If you’re a fan of his romance novels where love conquers all, you’ll likely see The Choice regardless, just like fans of John Grisham and Tom Clancy flock to their films.

More than eight years after Sparks published his tale about how far a man will go for the woman he loves, The Choice hits theaters, following The Longest Ride in 2015, The Best of Me (2014), Safe Haven (2013), The Lucky One (2012) and The Last Song and Dear John in 2010. And how many of those were worth seeing at the theater?

How far will Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker) go for the woman he loves - Gabby Holland (Lily Holland) in The Choice? (Lionsgate)
How far will Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker) go for the woman he loves – Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) in The Choice? (Lionsgate)

Sparks has had 11 of his books made into movies and only one – 2004’s The Notebook, which grossed more than $115 million worldwide – was memorable. The rest of his adaptations – Message in a Bottle (1999), A Walk to Remember (2002) and Nights in Rodanthe (2008) – weren’t great, either.

Until you look at what they did collectively at the box office.

Sparks’ last eight books that have been turned into movies each had a budget of around $30 million, yet collectively grossed around $700 million worldwide. The biggest winner was The Notebook, which made more than $115 million off a $29 million budget, while The Best of Me made about $36 million, about $10 million more than its budget.

Sparks’ books are made for low-budget films. They are character-driven love stories, making the need for computer-generated imagery and elaborate sets minimal. That’s the case with The Choice, which was filmed in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Its cast doesn’t feature a big-name star, which differs from previous Sparks’ adaptations that have been powered by Kevin Costner, Paul Newman, Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum and Liam Hemsworth,

The Choice centers on Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer of Warm Bodies), who spend a decade going from bickering neighbors to lovebirds. Shaw, who is a pure ladies’ man, and Holland, who plays a stubborn medical student, are mediocre together, which prevents the film from elevating to the lofty standard set by Gosling and McAdams in The Notebook.

Their relationship perseveres through plenty of drama, as Gabby succumbs to her longing for the handsome Travis, who decides to gives up his carefree lifestyle in return. A supporting cast that includes Tom Welling (Smallville’s Clark Kent), Maggie Grace (the Taken franchise), Alexandra Daddario (True Detective) and Tom Wilkinson (Shakespeare in Love) meshes well with Walker and Holland, but provides few, if any, moments that will stick with you after the movie ends.

Travis and Gabby’s relationship builds to a crescendo where their bond is put to the ultimate test, where Travis is faced with a choice: how far would he go keep the glimmer of love alive?

But at this point, only Travis can save the relationship.

As for the movie, it’s tough to love.

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