Directed by Michael Sucsy
Running Time: 104 minutes
Originally Released: February 12, 2012
* * (out of four)
Boy meets girl. Boy farts in front of girl. Girl rolls up car window to trap smell of boy’s fart in car. Boy declares love to girl. And so begins the wonderful romance at the heart of The Vow.
Four years after their chance encounter at the DMV, Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are married. Theirs is a storybook romance. Sweet nothings are whispered. Laughs and smiles abound. Bliss is the order of the day. That all changes one stormy night when Paige and Leo’s car gets rear-ended and Paige goes flying through the windshield. (You see, Paige had just taken off her seatbelt so she and Leo could have sex … while stopped at a stop sign.) When Paige finally regains consciousness, the last several years of her life are missing from her memory. She doesn’t know where she lives. She doesn’t know she dropped out of law school to pursue her dream of being a sculptor. Worst of all, she doesn’t know who Leo is. He’s a stranger. In her mind, she is still engaged to Jeremy (Scott Speedman), the handsome fella she dated back in her law school days. Not only must Leo convince Paige to come home and live with him, he must make her fall in love with him all over again.
The Vow is “inspired by actual events.” That doesn’t mean much when it comes to a Hollywood film, but you’d hope a true story would capture some of the emotional and psychological challenges that a wholly fabricated story like this might overlook. It doesn’t. As much as The Vow is centered on the overcoming of adversity, its key characters remain surprisingly nonplussed about the situation in which they find themselves. As Paige, McAdams rarely resonates as anything more than sheepishly naïve. On the few occasions when she does explode in frustration, she just seems put out. The problem is, losing the last few years of your life should make you feel more than that. But Tatum is the real problem. There’s no doubt in my mind that Tatum is getting acting gigs only because he is (supposedly) a hunk. He lacks any charisma whatsoever. Leo is a completely lifeless character beyond the clichéd behaviors he dutifully performs (such as coming home with a dozen roses). Of course, Paige and Leo would not be so boring if the script (the cumulative effort of Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, and Marc Silverstein) and/or the directing (by big screen novice Michael Sucsy) had been better. But I suspect a better actor than Tatum could have added some pizzazz and onscreen chemistry that The Vow is lacking.
With all of that being said, a two-star critique may seem generous. In response, I can say only that the film’s mediocrity is also its saving grace. There is nothing dreadful about the movie. It doesn’t make you cringe. While it doesn’t stray far from the beaten path, the storyline is not totally hackneyed. And so, you could do a lot worse. The problem remains that you could do a lot better.