The Choice is a real dog

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      Starring Teresa Palmer. Rated G. Now playing.

      The Choice is about a husband who has to decide what to do when his cherished wife lapses into a coma after a car accident. Sound grim? Don’t worry. This is a movie based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. What Stephen King is to horror, Sparks is to everlasting devotion. The number-one rule in his wet-eyed universe? You can never pull the plug on true love.    

      If this sounds like a spoiler, you’re probably unfamiliar with the 10 previous movies based on the Sparks canon.  Set in North Carolina, The Choice is similar to 2004’s The Notebook. Unfortunately, the cast here has zero chemistry.   

      The plot? Bad-boy veterinarian Travis (Benjamin Walker) courts good-girl medical student Gabby (a bland Teresa Palmer.) Travis is smitten enough to permanently dump his intermittent girlfriend, Monica (Alexandra Daddario). We know Monica’s a loser because she wears too much makeup and drinks beer straight from the bottle.   

      Gabby dislikes Travis on sight. But—unless you count the endless parade of gleaming pick-up trucks and freshly shampooed retrievers—things aren’t quite what they seem.  

      Travis is actually a softhearted good ol’ boy who says things like “There’s nothing cuter than a basket full of puppies.” Much to Travis’s delight, the uptight Gabby is hiding a smokin’ body under those baggy medical scrubs. Love blossoms when they take Gabby’s studies in anatomy to a whole new level by doing it on her kitchen table.              

      Director Ross Katz shoots most of the movie like one of those soft-focus greeting cards of couples walking along the beach. But things sharpen up considerably whenever Gabby happens to be wearing a bikini or Travis takes off his shirt. And then there’s those big, fat, car-crash tears streaming down Travis’s cheeks. It makes for one insufferably soppy Valentine.