Grae's Rating:

2.5

Semper Fidelis Sparksum

Nicholas Sparks movies are not about overthinking it. 2004's The Notebook streaked everyone's faces with mascara (either yours, or your date's), and ever since we've supported his subsequent films, either to see if The Notebook can be outshined or just as an ongoing thank you for giving us 2004 Ryan Gosling shirtless on a big screen. If you love the same plot points and mystical connections he always presents, you'll love this one too. And if you're the one having to tolerate these movies in order to keep the peace at home, it has some interesting stuff for you--although it is kind of a head-scratcher at times.

There's always a guy who's Going Through Something. This time it's Zac Efron, who has thankfully escaped Leonardo DiCaprio syndrome and actually looks older than he did in High School Musical. He lends the right amount of shell-shock to the character of Logan, an ex-Marine sergeant who avoided getting blown to smithereens in Iraq by finding a picture of a beautiful blonde (Beth, played by Taylor Schilling). This is where the Sparks Mysticism part comes in. Logan uses the wonder of the Internet to match the background of the photo to somewhere in Louisiana, and his hunt begins. Taking a note from Forrest Gump's handbook on How to Get the Girl, he walks there from Colorado, gets a job at Beth's doggie kennel, and Boom! There's a sweaty, quiet, smoldering hot guy walking among the Golden Retrievers and bonding with her young son. Begin Sparksian chaos of the heart--she has an ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson) who is not a fan of the half-naked Marine.

I got a kick out of how this movie walks the line between being wildly romantic and super creepy, because isn't that like love in real life anyway? This guy just shows up saying "I came here to find you," and she thinks it's because he read the want ads and needs a job. Nope, he just found a photo and walked 1,000 miles (which makes The Proclaimers smack their foreheads and say, "We should have upped the ante--anybody could walk 500 miles"). Logan is good at lifting sacks of dog food and he wants to stare at the pretty blonde lady from the picture. Stalker-y or romantic? The answer lies in how much you like Nicholas Sparks and the pleasant-looking actors who have a reasonable amount of chemistry.

You can guess where the big conflict is--she finds out why he really came there. And to be honest, I was so into the romance part of the equation that I didn't buy her anger and fear. We passed creepy way back when you guys had your hands in each other's underwear and were making love on a canopied bed, didn't we? When the dramatic climax came about, I just wanted to see Efron lifting more sacks of dog food. When I'm not overthinking it, anyway.

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