THE VOW

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Michael Sucsy

Stars: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Jessica McNamee, Scott Speedman, Wendy Crewson, Tatiana Maslany, Lucas Bryant.

Loosely inspired by a true story The Vow is a rather ho-hum and formulaic romantic drama that is the perfect date movie for Valentine’s Day.
Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are a happily married couple whose lives are changed by a car accident. Paige, a free spirited sculptor, lies in a coma with serious head injuries. When she awakes she suffers from amnesia, and forgets all the details of her married life with independent record producer Leo.
Leo is desperate to try and help her recall their life together her. “I gotta make my wife fall in love with me again,” he says. This is the same dilemma that Adam Sandler played for bittersweet laughs in the far superior romcom 50 First Dates. He takes her to familiar places, shows her photographs and videos, hoping to jog her memory and rekindle their relationship.
However Paige’s wealthy estranged parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) come back into her life and take her home with them, anxious to have her return to her old life before she met Leo. They are determined to keep her away from Leo, who they think is too lower class and bohemian for her. They want to send her back to law school and help her reconnect with her former boyfriend, the charming and wealthy businessman Jeremy (Scott Speedman). Leo is concerned for Paige while her parents selfishly want what’s best for them.
The Vow also comes across like the sort of syrupy romantic drama that Nicholas Sparks regularly churns out. The Notebook is probably the prime example of Sparks’ formula, in which two people passionately in love are kept apart by difficult circumstances, family or social class. The Vow seems like a sub-par Nicholas Sparks story, and writers Jason Katims (a veteran of tv series like Roswell and Friday Night Lights, etc) and Abby Kohn (a veteran of romcoms like He’s Just Not That Into You, etc) seem to have his formula down pat. Making his feature film debut here, Emmy-award winning director Michael Sucsy (the HBO mini-series Grey Gardens) ensures that The Vow does not become an overly manipulative tearjerker.
McAdams and Tatum are both veterans of adaptations of Spark’s novels – she from The Notebook, he from Dear John – which further reinforces the vibe of his novels. Tatum is normally a wooden actor, but here he provides the beefcake factor. He also finds some emotional range and conveys Leo’s pain and frustration effectively enough. McAdams (recently seen in Midnight In Paris) is appealing and delivers a good performance in the more demanding and slightly unsympathetic role. However, the pair fails to develop that easygoing and realistic rapport that may have lifted the movie.
An underused Lange and a rather stiff and humourless Neill do their best with one-dimensional roles. And Aussie actress Jessica McNamee (Home And Away, Packed To The Rafters, etc) makes the most of her Hollywood debut as Paige’s sister Gwen.
The Vow is a passable, predictable and sweet romance, but it is also an eminently forgettable film.

**1/2

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