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The Vow

February 11, 2012
The Vow

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we have a sappy, slapped-together romance that’s sure to do land-office business at the box office on Tuesday night. While it has its promising moments, The Vow has nothing new to offer, nor anything truly romantic. But it does have beefcake, which I suppose is meant to get the women’s engines revved up before going home with boyfriends who almost certainly look nothing like Channing Tatum.

“Inspired” by a true story, the movie center on Leo (Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams). A pretty young couple in Chicago, their entire lives lay ahead of them, until they are rear-ended at a snowy intersection. Leo recovers swiftly, but Paige has struck her head and is in a medically induced coma for a short time. And then, when she wakes up, she can’t remember the last five years.

Conveniently, it was four years ago that Paige moved into the city from the toniest of suburbs, when she and Leo had a meet-cute while getting parking permits. She’s an art student, he’s an aspiring music producer, and their friends are hipsters from Central Casting. They have an offbeat wedding with their own corny vows, and are chased from the art museum by security.

So now Paige can’t remember Leo at all. On top of this, her barely-named, wealthy parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) show up despite the fact that she hasn’t spoken to them since moving to the city — again, within the forgotten years. And there’s an incredibly preppy ex-fiancĂ© (Scott Speedman) who, of course, she doesn’t remember dumping. And then there’s the personality; Paige is now a vegetarian, and an Obama-voter, both of which come as a surprise to the WASPy law student she remembers being.

Clearly this is not the first sudden change she’s experienced, which slots neatly with Leo’s “philosophy” about “moments of impact” — like the crash, and their meeting, and so on — that may sound incredibly deep to a teenage girl. Of course, huge swaths of the public haven’t really progressed beyond teenage girldom, so this will probably go over fairly well.

Still, it does show one sign of promise in the premise: what if Paige doesn’t need to find her way back to Leo after all? What if her life with Leo was itself a diversion from her intended course, off of which she’d been knocked by some other trauma, years ago? But of course that would be asking far too much from such a shallow story. The truth, when it’s finally revealed, is far more mundane and far less plausible.

McAdams is a veteran of romances, comedic or otherwise, and she’s well within her element here. She’s got an endlessly expressive face, and she gets to run it through a wide spectrum of emotions. On the other hand, Tatum is way out of his depth. In his last romance, Dear John, he was somewhat believable as a soldier just coming into his own romantic life, but here he spends his time standing around like a slab of meat. I couldn’t buy a single line; his performance was wooden and devoid of emotion. It’s great for Duke in G.I. Joe, but just doesn’t work in a tearjerker romance.

But if boys get Megan Fox in their action, I suppose girls deserve Channing Tatum in their romance. A little eye candy never hurt anyone but, unlike Ryan Gosling, these are some seriously empty calories.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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