REVIEW: 'The Choice' promotes muddled worldview

by Michael Foust, |

CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – We're one week from Valentine's Day—that time of the year when we buy flowers, write sweet notes, enjoy a candlelight dinner and perhaps even take in a "chick flick" or two.

To its credit, "The Choice" is far cleaner than most romantic dramas. It simply would have been far more enjoyable had the film crew toned down the PG-13 content.

Moviegoers looking for a romantic drama have only one new option in theaters this weekend: "The Choice" (PG-13), which is based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, the same author who brought us "The Notebook" and "Dear John," and who has now seen 11 of his books turned into movies.

"The Choice" follows the story of a young studious woman named Gabby (Teresa Palmer) who moves into a house next door to a man her age named Travis (Benjamin Walker)—a man who is anything but studious and who takes pride in being a, well, ladies' man.

"He ain't never going to commit," says one of his married friends.

Travis enjoys women, boats (the movie is set in a coastal down), fishing and drinking, and his dog – and he doesn't want anything interrupting his fun bachelor life. But then he meets Gabby, a woman quite unlike other women he's met: She's offended by his off-color humor, and she initially finds him repulsive. She is, in other words, hard to get. He keeps pursuing her, though, and once she falls for him, he must decide if he will continue his "playboy ways" or settle down with the new woman he loves. Later in the movie—once they're married and have children—an even bigger choice is presented to him.

"The Choice," when viewed through a Christian lens -- is like so many romantic dramas today: There's lots to like but plenty not to like.

First, the good: Marriage is upheld as the ideal. Even when Travis is flirting with multiple ladies, he is hanging out with happily married men and women (and their children). They're the ones he invites to cookouts and to boat rides. He witnesses first-hand the joy in their lives and learns that the best things in life do not involve partying, getting drunk and chasing girls. Later in the movie, when he is married, we see him enjoying life with his kids: fishing, eating ice cream, pushing them in the swing. "The Choice" also does a nice job upholding commitment within marriage when he is faced with a decision that could end their relationship.

Now, for the bad: "The Choice" has quite a bit of baggage that will offend some viewers. Even though Travis and Gabby do settle down and get married, they sleep with one another prior to that. (The film has no nudity but does contain one scene – an unnecessary one – that shows far too much skin.) Strangely, this all takes place in the midst of Gabby trying to change Travis – bringing up the subject of God in conversations (he doesn't believe in Him) and even dragging Travis to a church service. Sadly, we don't see any negative consequences of their fooling around. The story takes place near a beach, so we see people in swimsuits. There's also nearly 30 instances of coarse language (mostly d---, h--- and a--). Finally, Travis enjoys crude, sexually suggestive jokes.

As for the entertainment value? It starts off interesting enough but slows considerably in the second half.

To its credit, "The Choice" is far cleaner than most romantic dramas. It simply would have been far more enjoyable had the film crew toned down the PG-13 content.

"The Choice" is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and thematic issues.

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5. Family friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Post-movie discussion topics: pre-marital sex – what does the movie get wrong about its consequences?; married life vs. single life; Travis' final choice in the movie – what would you have done?