The Good: Interesting plot device, Decent acting
The Bad: Predictable, Little distinctive on the character front.
The Basics: The Vow is a very typical romantic drama that tries a new conceit and ends up as a mostly-charmless, obvious film.
As risky as the gambit to re-release The Phantom Menace theatrically as a 3-D film, it seems to be a risk to go up against it. Screen Gems seems to be trying to take the safest road possible by appealing to the exact opposite demographic as the Star Wars market. Ready to be drowned out by the big special effects in the theater showing The Phantom Menace next door, Screen Gems is releasing the romantic drama The Vow and hoping that people on dates will outnumber geeks this Valentine’s Day. In the recent tradition of movies like Letters To Juliet (reviewed here!), The Vow arrives on the big screen as a simple gimmick love story that is pretty much ruined by knowing the premise or seeing the many previews.
While romantic dramas are hard to pull off with a sense of originality these days, The Vow makes the attempt by reconfigure an amnesia story in the context of a romantic drama. Unfortunately, The Vow falls into many of the conceits of a love story geared toward the moon-eyed female demographic that producers assume don’t understand movies. Yes, the first thing that annoyed me in The Vow was the use of a voiceover. When a car is crashing on screen, followed by flashbacks, we hardly need someone to tell us what is going on.
Paige and Leo are young lovers who are in a horrible car accident. While Leo pretty much walks away from the crash, Paige is seriously injured and put in a coma. While Leo waits by her side, he recalls how they fell in love, grew together, and got married. When Paige awakens, in her mind it is five years earlier. She is engaged to Jeremy, studying at law school, and is very close with her parents. She is initially alarmed by Leo, his attention, and his insistence that they are married.
The issue is not helped by Jeremy, who is still sore about how Paige left him and wants her back, nor by Paige’s parents who have not forgotten their disappointment over how Paige left law school to become an artist. Leo, refusing to give up on his love for Paige, tries to open her up to him and the art she fell in love with, trying desperately to save the life and wife he hoped for.
The Vow is, despite the set-up, a very typical romance movie. While it is based upon a true story, there are obvious licenses taken and viewed objectively, much of the movie follows the traditional romantic movie paradigm that forces a woman to choose between one of two men. The big problem I had with The Vow was that the characters were not so distinctive or interesting as to keep me guessing or engaged. While Paige has the two different professional views – split from law and art – there is little surprise to the idea that Paige is a character who was torn between what was expected of her and what she actually liked doing.
While The Vow remains focused on Leo and Paige, the nature of the story forces the inclusion of concerned friends. I had an easier time dealing with the whole disappointed parents subplot than I did the predictable “Paige gets overwhelmed by friends” bit where it becomes clear that many of the relationships she had changed over the five years between what she remembers and now. That aspect was about as predictable as the unwavering love and affection Leo has for Paige and in many ways both have to be written off as functions of That Kind Of Movie. The Vow, despite its set-up, is not going for anything terribly original. It wants to play off the heartstrings and the story of love and devotion that are so pure is frequently uplifting.
In a movie where the concept and mood are the key selling points where the characters are not the most incredible ever put on screen, The Vow relies heavily upon the actors. The Vow is, in many ways, Channing Tatum’s attempt to keep the Dear John (reviewed here!) fanbase alive and buying his tickets before he appears in the riskier 21 Jump Street or guy-themed G.I. Joe: Retalliation later this year. He is brooding, puppy-dogged in his devotion and easy on the eyes. There is, however, no satisfying explanation for why a musician is built like a small fortress, as Tatum is.
The supporting performances in The Vow are decent. Sam Neill makes good use of his brief role as Paige’s father, as does Jessica Lange who has a good run as Paige’s mother. Scott Speedman actually holds his own on camera with Channing Tatum, though he has less innate chemistry with Rachel McAdams than Tatum does, making the direction of the film more obvious than anything else. At the very least, none of the supporting performances distract or detract from the main thrust of the film.
That brings us to Rachel McAdams. McAdams is one of those rising stars who seems to be able to do just about anything and in The Vow, she does not disappoint. While the love scenes might be exactly what one expects of her, her ability to credibly play an amnesiac stretches her talents in a new direction. Fortunately, McAdams lives up and her performance – despite issues with the character – holds up quite nicely. She plays confident with the same skill as she does befuddled and she is a treat to watch in The Vow.
In the end, though, even Rachel McAdams is not quite enough to get me to recommend The Vow. The film is solidly average and not nearly as original as one might hope.
For other films with Channing Tatum, please check out my reviews of:
21 Jump Street
G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra
For other film reviews, please visit my movie review index page by clicking here!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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