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Film review: 'The Vow' is full of mush

February 13, 2012|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • In this image released by Columbia Pictures, Rachel McAdams, left, and Channing Tatum are shown in a scene from "The Vow."
AP Photo/Columbia Pictures/Sony, Kerry Hayes

Here's the requisite mushy romance movie for Valentine's season 2012. It is a relatively inoffensive movie that is designed to be seen by couples who cannot agree on anything better to do with their time. I can see where it would be fun to go see the film on a Valentine's date. It isn't a good movie, but a couple could enjoy themselves jointly mocking the film for being so sappy.

The film stars Rachel McAdams as Paige and Channing Tatum as Leo. Paige is sweet and smart, Leo is an adorable lunkhead. They spend the first segment of the film in puppy love, the gaggiest part of which is a care package Leo sends Paige during a miserable day at work.

They get married and are all ready to live happily ever after. They're even considering a baby. But a catastrophic car accident changes everything. Leo is relatively unharmed, Paige wasn't wearing her seat belt and isn't so lucky. After a brief coma, she wakes up with a devastating case of amnesia.

It was easy for Leo to handle Paige's trials through the accident and the coma (he did, after all, make a vow when he married her), but he's not prepared to handle the amnesia.

Actually with Leo he's just not prepared to have the more competent mind in the relationship. Then again, Paige's condition would throw anyone for a loop. The last few years of her memory have been wiped out. She doesn't remember anything about Leo including the fact that she's married to him. Nor does she remember her decision to drop out of law school and become an artist. She thinks she still has a strong relationship with her estranged parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill). And perhaps worst of all, she doesn't remember breaking up with her slimy ex-boyfriend (Scott Speedman) and there might still be a bit of a flame there.

Leo does what he can to overcome this new obstacle. Inadvisably he throws a huge party for Paige as soon as she arrives home under the assumption that she'll remember one of her friends and everything will come rushing back at once. She just gets more confused and frustrated.

Over the next few days he makes every attempt to jog her memory to no avail. To make matters worse, all the cute things he used to do for her are no longer endearing. As it becomes clear that Paige's memory isn't coming back, Leo feels more distant from the woman he loves. He realizes that he's going to have to make her fall in love with him all over again.

The film will be best remembered for its endless scenes of cutesy romantic behavior. I think its goal is to elicit more awwwws than a puppy petting zoo. From the initial flirting to the wedding to Leo's attempts to win Paige back, the film is filled with loving gestures that many will find charming but more will find nauseating. Before seeing the film, ask yourself this: do you like the "Twilight" movies but wish Edward was a little more lovey-dovey?

All the affection isn't really a problem for me since "The Vow" is clearly determined to have as much as possible. But the film could have done with a lot more work as far as character development.

Paige's ups and downs are reasonably compelling, but the same cannot be said for other characters. Her father, for example, remains an overprotective snob throughout the entire movie. And I would have felt more sympathetic toward Leo if I could see him as anything more than a total bonehead. All in all "The Vow" is a harmless date movie, but nothing more. I doubt that it even wants to be anything more.



Two stars out of five.


"The Vow" is rated PG-13 for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity, and some language. Its running time is 104 minutes.



Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.

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