Movie Review: The Vow

Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams in "The Vow"

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Forget about the vows in The Vow. You want a credible vow? Here you go:

Sweetheart #1: “Honey, I swear to you, the next time you drag me to this kind of Hallmark Hall of Fame schlock attempting to sell itself as a bona fide feature, I’m wearing 3-D glasses.”

Sweetheart #2: “But babe, these romance dramas are never made in 3-D. You won’t be able to see a thing!”

Sweetheart #1: “Exactly …”

The idiocy starts immediately. Place: Chicago. Weather: A recent snow fall. Visibility: Other than a few scattered flakes, clear. A married couple parks their discernibly red auto at the curb, discussing the merits of engaging in sex right then and there. But: Along comes a snow plow and inexplicably keeps on plowing, even though the car that’s blocking its path presents an obvious impediment.

Had the snow plow lost its brakes? Had the driver fallen asleep? Was Mr. Magoo behind the wheel? Was someone trying to harm these two lovebirds? We’ll never know because this opening incident is left for dead, right along with that cute red auto. Rethinking it, since the accident has a much stronger impact on the couple than the trifling vows exchanged on their wedding day, perhaps the film’s title should have been “The Plow.”

Plowing ahead: While the husband (Channing Tatum’s Leo) escapes major injury, the wife (Rachel McAdams’ Paige) suffers severe brain trauma. The first act flashes between montages of the couple’s romantic history and current-day hospital scenes, with Paige in a coma. When Paige eventually bounces back to consciousness, she’s a quasi-amnesiac, with the last five years of her memory wiped clean. She can’t remember her four years of marital bliss with Leo, or her life as a successful artist. But she has no problem recalling her wealthy family, snooty girlfriends, earlier decision to go to law school and previous fiancé.

Poor Leo. And poor us. We’re forced to contend with Paige’s parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) and prior beau (Scott Speedman), all oozing cardboard villainy. As for Paige, she’s so uninterested in giving her husband a fighting chance, we lose empathy for her fairly quickly. Worse, she gives him mixed signals: She runs home to her parents, then deigns to allow Leo to take her out on a date. Even though the evening runs smoothly, with Paige frequently giggling and appearing to have a fine time, by the end of the night she shuts the door in his face. Perhaps it’s time to call in the snow plow once again…

Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams in "The Vow"

Ham-fisted acting from the supporting ensemble aside, this is the McAdams and Channing show. (All that’s missing are the writings of Nicholas Sparks, his cloying novels-turned-into-syrupy-flicks that earlier showcased McAdams (The Notebook) and Tatum (Dear John).) While McAdams had previously turned in a fine, funny performance in 2004′s Mean Girls, she hasn’t hit her stride since. Even in last year’s Midnight in Paris, her grating one-note shrew was the only weak link in that film’s ensemble. Here, although easily lighting up the screen with a radiant grin, McAdams wrestles with a character that appears so callous, so dismissive, that she would have had to dive deep below the superficial writing to create a woman of any substance. Unfortunately, she doesn’t succeed.

As for Tatum, he may have an easy breezy style, but he suffers from a decided lack of charisma. It’s almost as if he’s the actor’s version of a trust fund baby who doesn’t really need to work, taking on roles with casual disinterest, as if the filmmakers should consider themselves lucky to have him. (He did, however, manage a few sparks in the recently-released Haywire, eschewing his usual mumbling hunky guy for a fellow with some chops — literally and figuratively.) Here’s hoping we see more fire in the future.

Every February, our film-going experience is destined to suffer from Valentine’s Day Hallmark-ism, that unavoidable cake-layering on of unimaginative, sugary slop, swapping candy hearts for real ones. And rather than overt commercialism, it’s always that poor boy with the arrows who’s made to take the blame. Cupid turned to cupidity … now there’s a sad tale worth telling.

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Rating on a scale of 5 forget-me-knots: 1.5

Release date: February 10, 2012
Directed by: Michael Sucsy
Screenplay by: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein and Jason Katims
Story by: Stuart Sender
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman, Jessica Lange, Wendy Crewson
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 104 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

Comments

  1. Dan O. says:

    The film may be entirely unafraid of predictability, but it’s sweet, shiny and well acted; essentially it delivers exactly what it says on the box. It also helps that McAdams and Tatum are good here, especially when they’re together. Nice write-up. Check out mine when you get the chance.

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