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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

Travis Parker isn't the marrying kind.

No, this confirmed ladies' man would rather spend his free time lounging on the beach or on a boat or by the barbecue. Matrimony is messy, says he. No reason to get mired in it.

That's a lesson his longtime, off-and-on-again girlfriend, Monica, has learned the hard way. And even if things are kinda sorta on again right now ("Boomerang," Travis' guy friends call her derisively), well, nobody's holding their breath that this macho man-boy will actually be able to make any sort of real commitment.

Then Travis' noncommittal bachelor paradise gets rocked when pretty young med school student Gabby moves into the bungalow right next door to his sprawling North Carolina beach house. She's as quiet as he is loud but every bit as independent. And she's practically engaged to Ryan McCarthy, a doctor she works with at the local hospital.

"You bother me," Travis tells Gabby cryptically after their first feisty encounter, one in which she's told him to turn his music down. And he bothers her, too, just for the record.

Commence falling in love, right? After all, this is a Nicholas Sparks movie.

When Gabby's dog, Molly, has trouble delivering puppies one night, she finds herself, desperate for help, turning to Travis. He takes the canine momma and her newborn pups into the clinic to watch them for the night, falling asleep on the floor with the doggie brood.

That's where his father, Shep (also a vet), finds him the next morning. "If you see a man sleeping on a cold flor," he observes sagely, "there's sure to be a beautiful woman nearby."

He's sure right about that one.

And so the complicated, electric connection between Travis and Gabby soon sparks something fierce. Ryan and Monica are but collateral damage as wedding bells and babies follow in short order. Things seem well on their way to happily ever after until a dark and stormy night changes everything, testing Travis' commitment—yes, he actually is capable of it—to his beloved bride in ways he never could have foreseen.

Positive Elements

The titular idea here is the importance of our decisions. Travis and Gabby both reflect on how small choices contribute to bigger ones with huge consequences down the road. It's a philosophical reminder that life consists of all the choices that we make each day, and we need to be careful and wise about them because we don't always know how they'll shape our future.

As stated, Travis does finally shed his love-the-one-you're-with bachelor ways, putting actions to his newfound commitment by marrying Gabby. They're the very picture of wedded bliss, obviously delighted in each other and in the little boy and girl they soon have. As such, marriage and children are exalted for being the very, very good things that they are—a positive message that doesn't get nearly as much play in pop culture as it once did.

Elsewhere, Travis's father, Shep, is a consistent source of encouragement and homespun wisdom. Travis' young sister, Stephanie, tries to help him admit that he really is falling for Gabby, who's unlike anyone he's ever met before. Even Monica, to her self-sacrificial credit, realizes that the guy she loves actually loves someone else in a way he never will her. When it looks as though Travis is about to lose Gabby to Ryan, Monica tells him to "swallow your pride" and get on with the pursuit. "That's all any woman wants," she adds, "a man who's going to fight."

In the end, Travis turns out to be exactly the fighter Gabby needs. When unexpected tragedy strikes, Travis again puts actions to his words, rising to the challenge with wholehearted devotion to his wife.

Spiritual Content

Travis and Gabby stumble into a conversation about their spiritual beliefs. Travis is forthright about the fact that he doesn't believe in God. "Your friends, your family, yourself, that's all you can count on in this world," he says, "and that's all I believe." Gabby, for her part, speaks in a general sense about an emotional faith in God inspired by, she says, the wonder and mystery of creation. "I believe in the moon, the stars. It's that feeling that I'm part of something so much bigger than myself that I will never, ever begin to understand. It's something I can't control, no matter how hard I try." A bit later in the conversation she says it's this feeling of awe and wonder that prompts her to keep saying her prayers before bed every night.

Gabby also has a sense of something like predestination or predetermination when it comes to the mysterious, interconnected web of our choices. She finds comfort in choosing to believe that our "choices are made for us when we enter into this world. If that's true, then we're exactly where we're meant to be."

In the middle of rainstorm, Travis and Gabby take shelter in a church where a raucous worship service is going on. And it turns out that Travis' father is, apparently, one of the leaders in the congregation. Regarding his beliefs, Shep tells Gabby that after his wife died of breast cancer, "I kind of fell into the Bible." He says that Travis, who was 14 at the time, went the other way: "He wanted to burn it." Still, at a difficult moment, Travis says that he wishes he could pray.

Sexual Content

Lots and lots of kissin' goin' on here, between Travis and Monica, Ryan and Gabby, and Travis and Gabby. Some of it is pretty passionate, with clutching and clinging shown, too.

When Travis and Gabby finally admit that they've got the hots for each other, a smoldering, flirtatious first date ends with them moving on from the kissing to "knocking boots," as the film puts it, on her kitchen table. It's a sex scene that boasts sexual sounds and suggestive motions, as well as a panning camera shot of Gabby's underwear-clad body and Travis' bare torso. Later we see her covered by just a sheet. And another scene before the couple ties the knot shows them in bed together.

Travis hosts laid-back afternoon soirees on his boat and at his beach house. Quite a few shots picture women in bikinis. Travis ogles Gabby—as does the camera—when she removes her shirt to show off skimpy beachwear. Indeed, Gabby often wears tops and sundresses that accentuate and reveal her figure.

A couple of conversations about the state of Gabby's pregnant dog's nipples are played for humor. We hear a joke about the unknown siring dog not using protection. There's crude talk about neutering and "balls."

Violent Content

Ryan punches Travis in the face, drawing blood. We witness a terrible, slow-motion car accident.

Crude or Profane Language

Three or four s-words. "H---" and "d--n" are used eight or nine times each. We hear "a--" a handful of times (and Gabby repeatedly refers to Travis' St. Bernard as his "stinky-a-- dog"). There are two unfinished exclamations of "son of a …" and one use of the swearing shorthand "S.O.B." We see an obscene hand gesture. God's name is misused at least a dozen times; "good lord" once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Throughout the film, characters drink beer, wine and hard liquor at meals and in a local bar. Travis sometimes drinks solo.

Other Negative Elements

It's obviously not a good thing that Gabby cheats on her beau, Ryan, while he's away working at another hospital for a few weeks. But the film asks us not to spend too much time fixating on that little detail, favoring instead the new love that's in the air.


Nicholas Sparks movies—The Longest Ride, The Best of Me, Safe Haven, The Lucky One, The Last Song, Dear John, The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, among others—follow a formula that by now should be very familiar to his fans.

There's always a complicated romance between two people who are mad at each and then mad about each other. And often, for whatever reason, they just can't quite admit what's going on. Usually a main character dies, is dying, almost dies or is living under the shadow of someone who has already died.

All that emphasis on tragedy and death leads to sometimes sweet sermonizing about the beauty and brevity of life, and the need to make the most of every moment in every relationship. But it also opens the cinematic door to steamy premarital sex scenes that get jarringly juxtaposed against narratives affirming faith, family and matrimonial fidelity.

The Choice dutifully checks every expected box—both the poignant elements and the problematic ones. And fans will likely eat it up once again. (These movies all make good money, after all.) But those who aren't given to embracing Sparks' sappy, sentimental, spiritual, sad and sexy stories might feel otherwise. A.V. Club reviewer A.A. Dowd put it this way in the headline to his review: "The Choice Is the Same D--n Nicholas Sparks Movie We Get Every Year."

Hard to argue with that—except for the cursing part.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Benjamin Walker as Travis Parker; Teresa Palmer as Gabby Holland; Maggie Grace as Stephanie Parker; Alexandra Daddario as Monica; Tom Wilkinson as Shep Parker; Tom Welling as Ryan McCarthy


Ross Katz ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

February 5, 2016

On Video

May 3, 2016

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

Content Caution

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