Actually, we're lying about with the title of this review, since watching Channing Tatum really try hard to act was arguably the most enjoyable thing about The Vow. We just hope that he never again actually puts himself in the position to play a romantic lead, at least in a movie that isn't meant to be a spoof of some sort. He should stick to action movies where he can grunt and punch things, because while there's something fun about seeing him squeeze out tears by thinking about dead puppies (or whatever), it's not a sustainable element on which to base an entire film. Isn't there a male version of Showgirls he could star in? (Color us excited for that male stripper movie he's doing with Steven Soderbergh...)
If you've seen the trailers and TV commercials, you probably know that Tatum is a guy who is in love with his beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams), until she suffers massive head trauma and develops amnesia. After that, she no longer remembers that she's married to him, or even who the hell he is. But the trailers leave out so many "important" details, like the fact that Sam Neill and Jessica Lange are Paige's (McAdams) estranged parents and that she was supposed to marry Jeremy (Scott Speedman). Speedman, even in the guise of a douche lawyer, is far greater than Channing Tatum in a semi-employed sappy role. We would probably have long-term head trauma if it took us back to the time we were engaged to Speedman, if given the choice.
Somehow we're supposed to buy that Tatum's Leo is able to afford not only a recording studio as his business, but a giant loft apartment and a charming studio where his wife can work on her sculptures. Are rents super cheap in Chicago? We're also supposed to buy that he lives and breathes for this woman and apparently has no time whatsoever for engaging in any form for exercise. There's not a stitch of workout equipment in their giant loft, and he never mentions fitting in trips to the gym in his detailed rundown of his harried daily itinerary. Instead, he spends the whole film eating, or talking about eating. Excuse us, but you do not get six-pack abs eating at every Cuban joint and pastry-filled café in the entire city of Chicago. And he can cook some major pancakes, seems to have a working knowledge of art, is somewhat literate and easily adapts his knowledge of Radiohead to fit any situation. He's a true renaissance man.
So anyway, the plot... he sits by her bedside after they are in a terrible car accident, she wakes up, doesn't know him and he starts trying to mind-rape her into remembering him. Sounds harsh? Maybe, but he's just filling her head with details of her life, without allowing her access to anyone who could corroborate these details. It's not until she's about to leave the hospital with her parents (who she remembers, but doesn't remember hating), that she even considers asking for proof, and he provides a sketchy phone message. Not her handwritten wedding vows or their wedding video, just a saucy message about them hooking up. It's weird and a little disconcerting on some levels. But still, she goes home with him, but doesn't remember her bohemian lifestyle, only her life as a privileged rich bitch with good hair. So she eventually returns to her mother's, plans her sister's wedding, makes some googly eyes at her former fiancé Jeremy (not that we blame her) and only agrees to awkward dates with Leo in hopes of regaining her memory by skinny dipping in a freezing Lake Michigan. For his part, Leo bends over backwards for her and nearly loses his business in the process because he's so powerfully in love with this one woman that he couldn't possibly live without her and doggedly keeps trying to prove to her why she left her old life to be with him.
It's your typical romantic tale, mediocrely overacted and overwritten, just in time for Valentine's Day. And the fact that it was inspired by a true story didn't really endear these characters to us at all. Nor did the picture during the closing credits that showed the real couple, who look nothing like Tatum or McAdams. It's an interesting concept, but done in the sappiest and most half-assed way possible. There are side storylines that feel entirely tacked on and unfinished. Many characters who are supposedly integral get about two minutes of screen time, especially Speedman -- we're still not sure why he agreed to do this as he only had about three scenes in total. Perhaps he got to keep the nice suits that he wears? Or he was bored and had nothing better to do for two days than play dress up and show up on this set? And Neill is playing the most stereotypical "I'm protecting my daughter, even though I'm an ass" dad ever, while Lange is just the WASPy wife who brushes all their troubles under the carpet. The only supporting cast member who has anything remotely interesting to do is Lily (Tatiana Maslany), who acts as Leo's employee and confidante. At least she gets a few scenes where she talks and acts like a real person, though we spent most of the movie trying to figure out who she was (as she resembles Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat), and were saddened to realize that we knew the best part of this movie from Instant Star.
This movie really hinges on McAdams and while we normally find her rather appealing, here she doesn't really convince us. She's not strong as either the hippie artist or the rich bitch. The only segments of the movie she did pulled off were the times where she was falling in love with Leo (for both the first and second time), as that "girl crushing on a guy" thing really lands smack in the middle of her wheelhouse. But she doesn't have a ton of actual chemistry with Tatum. At best, they achieve "cute" status -- not sexy and hot. Perhaps that's largely due to the film's wildly insane pacing, which tries to cram in their original love story and their second love story by jump-cutting from one major turning point in their relationship to the next, with no time at all to linger on the details. Scenes with emotional weight suffer, scenes with humor suffer... the entire movie suffers. If you are looking for the new Notebook to drag your significant other to this Valentine's Day, this isn't it.
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