Title: A Walk to Remember
Released: 2002

While working on this post, I kept trying to think of a clever name for Mandy Moore swimfans. You know, something more catchy and less creepy than… Mandy Moore swimfans. And then I realized that brainstorming about clever nicknames for people who love Mandy Moore is just sad. I mean, unless one of you comes up with something awesome and then LET’S MAKE T-SHIRTS.

The point is, I’m back with another installment of our series Mandy Moore Made Me Watch, in which we carefully analyze a film for the sole purpose of celebrating the magnificence that is Mandy Moore. Today’s post is actually a milestone in the series, because the movie is based on a book written by none other than the Shakespeare douchebag of our time, Nicholas Sparks! That’s right, I watched A Walk To Remember. Mandy Moore, girl, I really must love you.

The So-Called Plot

[FYI, there are mega spoilers in this review. But it’s Nicholas Sparks, so just knowing that is, like, the biggest spoiler there is, right?]

Landon Carter is a bad boy, you guys. He hangs out with dude-brahs and dares a poor kid to jump into a very shallow pool of water, resulting in massive injuries to the kid and a brief stint in jail for Landon. But the real reason you know he’s a bad boy is because every time he’s on screen, you hear ANGRY WHITE BOY ROCK MUSIC. As part of Landon’s punishment, he’s forced to participate in the school play alongside Mandy Moore (Jamie Sullivan, but like we care, IT’S MANDY MOORE). Mandy is the super angelic reverend’s daughter who wears the same sweater every day to school and doesn’t seem to care what people think. Mandy reaches out to Landon, but he’s too busy jamming out to ANGRY WHITE BOY MUSIC on his Discman (2002, represent!) to care. That is, until Landon encounters a crisis of epic proportions: he has to memorize a ton of lines!!!! And Mandy is the ONLY ONE WHO CAN HELP HIM! OBVIOUSLY! As Landon and Mandy spend more time together, they fall into a dream of love… a dream that is shattered when Landon learns of Mandy’s terminal leukemia. So he does what any teenage boy in love would do: he marries her right before she dies, so she can achieve her #1 life goal of getting married in the same church her mother did. YES, THAT IS HER #1 LIFE GOAL. Because Nicholas Sparks wrote this book.

Casting Callback

Since they’re always overshadowed by Mandy’s charisma and beauty, I like to include a reminder about who else is in the film. Not that they matter.

Shane West as Landon Carter

Shane West as Landon

Fun fact: Shane West got top billing in this film. This is one of those things, like black holes and people’s denial of global warming, that I just CANNOT WRAP MY HEAD AROUND. The good news is that Shane is actually ok in this movie! The bad news is that he looks like this now.

Daryl Hannah, with long brown hair and bangs, as Landon's mother

Daryl Hannah as Landon’s Mom

Hey, it’s Daryl Hannah! With really fugly hair! I guessing she made a deal with Ursula and, in exchange for legs, her gorgeously crimped blonde hair was turned into this… brown… thing. IT WASN’T WORTH IT, DARYL. You should have stayed under the sea with the hot crustacean band!

Peter Coyote, wearing a suit and tie, as Jamie's dad

Peter Coyote as Mandy’s Dad

As far as movie reverend fathers go, Peter Coyote is waaaay nicer than John Lithgow. He’s also the only person in the film who chose to have a strong North Carolina accent, and as a fan of Southern accents, I’ve gotta give him pants for that.

There’s also the standard group of cliché high school friends: The Angry Asshole, The Girl With No Self-Respect, and the Token Black Guy.

Chemistry Grade: B

Jamie, leaning against Landon as they sit outside at night

Listen, I’m not a huge Shane West fan, but he does have eyes and a beating heart, so of course he’s totally attracted to Mandy. Plus, they’ve got the whole bad boy meets good girl thing going, and sparks actually do fly! They make a lot of intense eye contact, they dance at an old people restaurant (I’m pretty sure it’s just a Luby’s with a really nice patio), and I never thought I’d say this, but even when Landon puts a fake tattoo on Mandy, it’s TOTALLY SEXY. Their connection on screen is visceral, and I can’t believe that after the whole wedding thing, we didn’t even get a GLIMPSE of a sex scene. COME ON. SHE CAN’T DIE A VIRGIN!!!!!!

Most Mandy Moore-tastic Scene

No brainer! In the school play, Mandy stands up to sing her solo, and she sheds her cloak to reveal her gorgeous hair and statuesque dress and then opens her mouth and starts singing and at first you’re like, “This is so cheesy!” and then after a second of being exposed to her mega watt sparkle awesomeness you’re like, “OMG MY LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.”

Mandy Moore Hair-O-Meter (5-10): 5

Y’all, I’m gonna be honest with you. Things start off real bad. I mean, REAL BAD.

Mandy Moore as Jamie, with her brown hair pulled back and flat, piece-y bangs

But that’s because she’s the reverend’s daughter! And she doesn’t care about earthly treasures and conditioner! But then she sings in the show, and her hair is all LUSCIOUS CURLS (see the outfit photo below) and then, strangely enough, as she gets sicker, her hair gets better. Cancer, you clever creature!

Mandy Moore as Jamie, with shiny, full brown hair and pretty good bangs

So, it’s definitely not her best hair, but thankfully we don’t have to dip below a 5, because then we get into Mandy Moore hair numbers that don’t exist and I am super bad at advanced math theory.

Best Mandy Moore Outfit

Mandy Moore as Jamie, looking gorgeous with mermaid hair and a silky, light blue sleeveless dress

The ONLY outfit in this movie that stood a chance to win this category is the silky sky blue dress Mandy wears for her big solo number in the play. It’s retro and lush and there is no way that a high school costume designer made it. But let’s be honest, it’s Mandy’s Pentecostal outfits that really steal the show. We’re talking OVERALLS:

Jamie walking down the aisle of the bus, wearing overalls and carrying a Bible, as Landon looks on in faint disgust

AND a Bible! Shane, dude, I know.

And then there’s my personal fave, the longass denim dress with Keds:

Jamie wearing a long pale denim sleeveless dress with a white t-shirt underneath and white socks and Keds

It’s a true testimony to Mandy’s charm that she still manages to look adorable even while dressed like a Sister Wife.

Mandy Moore Incandescence Level: Mega-High

Mandy is NOT dicking around in this movie, you guys. Even with the heinous outfits and the bad hair and the Nicholas Sparksness and lines like “You’re my angel,” Mandy is a shimmering, shining jewel of light. Girlfriend looks more luminous dying in her hospital bed than I did after spending two hours and $100 on make-up for New Year’s Eve. She takes a character that could easily be obnoxious and cloyingly sweet and turns her into a winsome, darling girl that makes you cry even though you know it’s a Nicholas Sparks movie and you can’t believe you’re crying but SHE’S JUST TOO PRETTY TO DIE.

Can Mandy Moore Save This Movie: Yes

When this film came out in 2002, I actually saw it in the theater. Solely in the name of Mandy Moore. I remember feeling ashamed because it was such a terribly melodramatic story, and yet I enjoyed it. I couldn’t help it! I JUST WANTED MANDY TO BE HAPPY. I didn’t know what was wrong with me at the time, but now I’m aware of my swimfandom, and I’ve embraced it. Exactly ten years later, I still get a kick out of this movie, and I no longer feel ashamed. Well, except for how Nicholas Sparks still earns royalties from it, because gross. It’s not a good movie, but it’s romantic, and Mandy Moore manages to make cancer look pretty damn good.

Pro-tip: If you ever view this film on DVD, don’t make the mistake of watching the “Cry” music video. Just… trust me. There are things in that video that you can’t unsee.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.