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Steve Kelley Reviews ‘The Vow,’ working title “Deja Vu”

Posted: February 10, 2012 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Sending me to review a romantic comedy is a bit perplexing. Although I’m generally pretty enthusiastic about seeing movies, there’s just something about the romcom chickflick that I’ve never gotten over. Sometimes, I think I did something to offend my editors, and as they send me off to review them, they’re secretly snickering behind my back as they sip cognac and go see manly movies involving steak, cleavage, and sports.

The least she could do is look at him.

As it is, with the impending national holiday for women coming up on February 14, a rash of romantic comedies are being pushed out the gate. Among the most eagerly anticipated (citation needed) of these is The Vow, the latest film in a string of excuses-to-let-Channing-Tatum-take-his-shirt-off.

Now, there are some romantic comedies I enjoyed. I liked Friends with Benefits, and if you count Crazy, Stupid, Love, well that was probably my favorite film overall of 2011. Movies that are clever or funny, I’ll overlook their flaws. I’m willing to at least try to be somewhat neutral in giving them a chance.

Having said that: guys, if you don’t like romantic comedies, oof. It’s actually somewhat unfortunate that this film falls flat; incredibly, the premise is based on a true story. More on this in the end.

The film starts with Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Tatum) emerging from a theater to a street full of snow, offering up a perfect “that’s what she said” moment in the form of “It was less than an inch when we went in.” Stopped at a stoplight, their car is rear-ended by a truck, and Paige, who isn’t wearing her seatbelt, flies through the windshield. With Paige in a coma, Leo stays at her side until she awakens.

Just one problem when she comes to: she doesn’t remember him. Despite Leo’s attempts to convince her they’re married and in love, she simply can’t accept it.

(Here’s the first point at which the movie loses plausibility. Ask 100 women this question: If you woke up to Channing Tatum telling you he loved you and you were married, would you believe him? See how many say no.)

The film intersperses flashbacks of their meeting, their dating, and marriage with their current struggles to find their footing in the situation. Leo owns his own recording studio, but because Paige is in such a precarious position, he can’t devote the necessary time at work to make it successful. Paige is a sculptor, but thanks to the accident, she’s seemingly lost the skill and creativity to ply her craft.

With the situation stagnating, Paige decides to move home with her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange), whom she hasn’t spoken to in years for some reason. Her parents and sister are happy to see her again, but the reunion leaves Leo feeling like an outsider. Additionally, the loss of memories leads her back to her ex-boyfriend, Jeremy (Scott Speedman), who still harbors feelings for her, because clearly every romantic comedy has to have some form of outside/former love competition in it.

Simply put, the best part of the film is the simple premise. As mentioned above, it’s based on the story of a real-life couple. The victims of a car accident, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter were forced to deal with the same issue nearly 20 years ago. I can’t really tell the conclusion of their story without giving away the ending of the film, but if you’re interested, look their story up online.

Anyways, back to the film. McAdams is excellent at times, but overall she isn’t enough to save the film. You could say she’s typecast as the female lead in a romantic comedy, but the premise of the film is enough that for her, the focus is a novelty, sort of. Sam Neill is a palentologist trying to find his way out of a pre-historic theme park largely unmemorable as her father whose loyalties and motives ultimately appear specious.

Ultimately, the two biggest gripes I have with the film revolve around Tatum.

One, the guy’s just an awful actor. No, this has nothing to do with his looks. Girls think he’s attractive, fine. But unless someone casts him as a former underwear model turned guy who talks with an accent straight outta Compton, the guy just can’t act. I absolutely cannot stand the way he delivers lines. He certainly tries to hide his inflection, and for the first 2/3 of the film, he does a decent job of it. Once he actually has to act and portray emotion, though, that goes out the window and his gangsta accent returns. He’s good looking; I get it. Cast him as a mannequin in the next film so he’s not in the way.

The second criticism isn’t really of him; rather, it’s the way his character was written. He has no depth; instead, he’s the typical perfect guy that every girl wants to fall in love with while watching a chick flick. More than once, I heard “why can’t all guys do that?” during the movie. He loses his temper twice in the film, but otherwise he’s the perfect, loyal, devoted, all-loving guy who happens to be ripped. There’s nothing wrong with a guy doing something nice for his lady every now and then; in fact, it’s encouraged. A movie sets the bar a little higher, though, given that guys in movies seem to have an unlimited budget and an accelerated timeline of an hour and a half. There are guys out there who are like him, I’m sure, but sadly, not all men are able to devote their entire universe 24/7 to their girlfriend/wife.

Think of it this way. When an action movie has a gorgeous girl submitting to a guy’s beck and call, doing everything to win him over and get in his pants, the female audience would consider it chauvinistic and typical of a guy movie. When a guy does the same for a girl, however, it’s romantic, and guys are idiots for not treating women like that. So thank you for that, screenwriters.

In the end, The Vow is a date/Valentine’s Day movie. The response from the females in the theater was, expectedly, positive. I, for one, couldn’t get into it. While the women get a romantic guy who happens to be shirtless in a few scenes (and stark naked in one), the guys get…nada. The humor is rare, and certainly not enough to make the movie memorable. The idea is interesting, but the execution has been done a thousand times over in nearly every other romantic comedy that’s come out to date. My advice: save the $30 you’d spend on tickets and popcorn/soda and just rent a movie; chances are you’ve seen this one already.

The Vow gets a C-/D+.