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A walk to remember

By Jeremy Reynalds
web posted February 11, 2002

As a nation, we're still ploughing our way through the Enron scandal, after experiencing a Superbowl with security so tight that the area was described by some as resembling a military fortress. As if that wasn't enough, here in Albuquerque New Mexico we've got a city budget deficit so serious that the mayor's talking about laying off a multitude of employees and the Albuquerque Public Schools Board is battling its now apparently former superintendent, who after being fired admitted a dependency on alcohol and sleeping pills.

In addition to all of the above, donations at Joy Junction (the privately funded faith - based ministry for homeless families I founded and direct) have as of yet failed to recover in the wake of 9/11.

So taking all of the above into consideration, last week I felt I could use a break from politics, scandal and money shortages for the evening and wondered if there were any movies to which I could take my 13 and almost 11-year-old sons. My eyes wandered through the movie section of the afternoon paper. It was for the most part quite a depressing experience.

For example. There was an R-rated movie engagingly titled "From Hell," which was still showing. It was a tale about "Inspector Abberline, a tormented soul who comes to visit Jack the Ripper's handiwork." Then there was "Shallow Hall" (PG-13), all about how a "superficial guy is hypnotized into falling for an obese woman."

Additional choices included "13 Ghosts," (another R) a movie dealing with specters who are out for blood and "Brotherhood of the Wolf," (also R) which the reviewer called "A chilling tale of a mysterious creature devouring French peasants in the 18th century."

While there were a number of PG-13's which looked at least superficially okay, my wife and I have decided that we will only take our boys to see G's or PG's (and then not all of those either). We've gone the PG-13 route a number of times in years past and have ended up being both upset and embarrassed by some of the language and the material that we were paying to be paraded in front of our youngsters' eyes. (We know that bad material is a whole lot easier to see than it is to erase from your visual memory bank).

I was just about to give up and make alternative plans for the evening when a movie caught my attention. Seeing that it was a PG, I read further.

Mandy Moore and Shane West in A Walk To Remember
Mandy Moore and Shane West in A Walk To Remember

The reviewer wrote that "For most of its running time, ‘A Walk to Remember 'is a sweet love story with a sprinkling of faith, perfect for parents wanting some decent fare for their pre-adolescents." (And did I! That was just what I had in mind).

When the same reviewer called the movie "a cornball high school romance," I knew I'd found a winner. I've started looking for comments like this in movie reviews because they usually signify a pretty decent movie. It seems that most secular reviewers have a proclivity for the nastier side of reality. While movies that are full of sex, violence, profanities and the like routinely send them into cinematic ecstacy, movies such as the excellent "Snow Dogs," and "Max Keeble's Big Move" unleash their journalistic displeasure.

But back to "A Walk to Remember." Despite a number of poor reviews it still had a pretty decent opening weekend, pulling in a respectable $13.5 million dollars. However, there were a few reviewers who did like the movie. For example. In the Biola University student newspaper, the movie review was headlined "A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: a Hollywood Film with Christianity at its Core."

The reviewer went on to comment that while in his opinion "‘A Walk to Remember' will not win an academy award, nor will it receive critical acclaim ... it could be heralded as one of the most influential movies of the year ... truly the first successful Christian movie." "Christianity Today" joined in the applause, calling the movie "a quiet but remarkable film."

So what can you expect if you go to see "A Walk to Remember?" The movie's web site gives a good overview of the storyline. "Jamie was the last person Landon was likely to fall for. Serious and conservative, she was as far from cool as she could possibly be, and didn't care. The daughter of the town's Baptist minister, Jamie was not afraid of letting people know that her faith was the most important part of her life, even if it cost her some friends.

Landon hung with the in-crowd -- an aimless, moody, reckless guy who breezed through school on looks and bravado. He had no plans, no future and no faith in himself."

While Landon ended up falling in love with Jamie, as the movie's web site revealed, "Being together will test everything that they believe in. Most of all, it will test the power of love and faith to transform a life into something worth living."

Now I was really sold. A clean movie AND one with Christian values.

However, my sons had gotten a slightly different idea of the movie. A few minutes before I left the office that night, my 13-year-old called me. Dad, I know it's a ‘chick flick,' but I'll still come with you. You're taking us out to eat before the movie, right?"

"Yeh, we're going out, but it's not really a ‘chick flick,' Joel. I think you'll be surprised."

"Alright, Dad. We're ready. You coming soon?"

"On the way."

Arriving at the theater after dinner, Joel announced in only the way that a teenager is able, "Dad, I'm not going in if there's anyone there I know.

I'm not going to be embarrassed."

Fortunately that didn't turn out to be a problem and after the requisite candy and latte, we made our way in. Being a quiet Tuesday night and with none of Joel's (or 11-year-old Josiah's) friends in attendance, there was no real need for Joel to pull the hood of his jacket half way down over his nose and the top of the coat above his mouth but he nonetheless did so for a while until he was absolutely convinced that nobody he even vaguely knew would be coming in the theater.

(Teenagers!)

After the movie, the boys were quiet. I was also quiet--but I think for different reasons as I mentally processed the message of the movie. That message is simple but profound. As the Biola reviewer wrote, "The movie is ... an honest story of a girl and the consequences of her faith. We see her struggle with not being cool because she does not conform to the ‘in crowd.' But in the end, we are shown how her unwillingness to compromise what was right changed the people around her."

And as the book by Nicholas Sparks on which the movie was based read, Jamie "helped me (Landon) become the man I am today. With her steady hand she showed me how important it was to help others; with her patience and kindness she showed me what life is really all about ...Jamie also taught me the value of forgiveness and the transforming power that it offers ... Jamie held no grudges. Jamie led her life the way the Bible taught."

So if you want to be encouraged and need a quick visual reminder about what's really important in this life, load up the family and go see "A Walk to Remember." It's a movie that the Lord will use to touch your kids' hearts and yours as well. Admittedly, the kids may razz you about going to see a so-called "chick flick," but if that's what this movie is, then may Hollywood make many more.

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at reynalds@joyjunction.org.

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