Directed by: Michael Sucsy
Written by: Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Stuart Sender, Marc Silverstein and Michael Sucsy
Starring: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Sam Neill, and Jessica Lange
January, as usual, was filled primarily with the dreck studios dump on us, and February ushers in another familiar period. Eager to capitalize on all the couples going out for Valentine’s Day, Screen Gems has gifted us with the romantic melodrama THE VOW. And a lot of you will probably flock to the theater expecting a Nicholas Sparks-esque romance a la THE NOTEBOOK, as all the elements are there: Memory loss and powerhouse cutie Rachel McAdams. However, what you are paying to see is vastly different – a ho-hum romance that fizzles rather than sparks (haha, get it?!) a flame.
Folks, I really wanted to adore this movie. And at first it seemed like I was going to. The first act lays on the romance thick as the script challenges audiences not to fall in love with it. Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) are a cute Chicago married couple who are torn apart when tragedy – in the form of a dump truck – befalls (ahem rear ends) them, sending her into a coma. While she’s in that coma, the film flashes back on their relationship. Leo hits on her at the DMV, makes her a get-well package when she’s sick, stands out in the pouring rain (he might need that get well package more than her if he doesn’t get inside), asks her to move in with him via some precisely placed blueberries on her breakfast plate, and the two get married in an art gallery on the fly. Oh, you crazy artistic bohemian hipsters! You’re incorrigible! Though their love burns hot, it flames out spectacularly by the middle of act two when Paige can’t remember that resplendent fairy tale life she had with Leo, and neither the characters nor the screenwriters remotely try to make this work.
I stop short at calling this film offensive as it doesn’t completely insult or talk down to its viewers (as ONE FOR THE MONEY does in spades). It just makes hackneyed and disappointing choices with our protagonists. Why would he think a surprise welcome home party would be a good idea? Why does the revolutionary idea of wooing his wife transpire so late into the film? Why don’t they fight for the love they had? While the tunes selected by soundtrack supervisor extraordinaire Randall Poster are fantastic, they’re a little too on the nose for the scenes they’re used in. Robyn’s “Get Myself Together,” the Cure’s “Pictures of You” – we get it, THE VOW. It also falls prey to one of my biggest pet-peeves, which is when the writer uses “self-congratulatory” speak: After the accident, Leo and Paige bring flowers to her parents’ house. Leo remarks, “We should have brought forget-me-nots.” Before we can finish chuckling, Paige remarks, “That’s funny!” We already know that’s funny. We were already laughing! Rachel’s hair might have been the most offensive part of the movie. It’s not as bad as Tom Hanks’ in THE DA VINCI CODE or Javier Bardem’s in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, but it’s shockingly sloppy even for a low budget studio picture.
Despite the film’s maladies, there are some genuinely sweet moments: Leo and Paige holding hands after a PG-13 version of a freezing skinny dip, Leo’s speech to Paige’s soon-to-be-brother-in-law about tingling fingers and Radiohead, and – of course – Tatum’s washboard abs. Speaking of which, there’s a scene where Paige talks about getting back to sculpting. She says, “My hands are remembering what my mind forgot.” It took every fiber of my being not to scream, “Put your hands on Tatum’s rock hard abs and the memories will come flooding back!” But, I digress. Perhaps THE VOW’s most insurmountable odd is not whether this couple will rediscover and rekindle their passionate love, but whether the film itself can overcome its overwhelming plodding predictability.