Michael Sucsy's The Vow
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
The Vow (2012)
“The Vow” is a sweet-natured film that asks some very intriguing questions: Can a couple fall in love again if one of them can’t even remember the other? Can these things only happen once under very specific circumstances or will they happen anyway as though they were meant to be? These questions could have made for a rather interesting film, but due to an overly-sappy, predictable treatment of the material, that’s not exactly what we get.
The film begins with a married couple, Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams), who are deeply in love. On their way home, a truck crashes into the back of their car, putting them both in the hospital. In no time, Leo is back on his feet while Paige has been placed in a coma to allow her brain time to heal and for the swelling to go down. When she awakens, she can’t remember who Leo is or what has happened for the last few years.
Paige’s parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange), whom she hasn’t spoken to in some time, arrive at the hospital and want to take her home with them, but Leo objects, thinking that it would be best to take her home with him so that she can try to remember their life together. Paige eventually decides to go home with Leo to see what her recent life has been like. Leo does everything he can to remind her of how they met and fell in love, but trying to fill in all the missing pieces of the last few years proves extremely difficult, which puts a strain on their relationship.
What ends up being most detrimental to “The Vow” is the way the beginnings of the relationship are skimmed over. Here was the filmmakers chance to get us involved with the characters, to let us know exactly how they fell in love so that we could feel something for them as we watch them drift together and apart throughout the film as their second relationship goes through its ups and downs.
Instead, they chose to gloss over this section and then throw us right into the situation without giving us the chance to get to know who these people are and why we should care about them. It’s true that the film is sweet about the whole situation as Leo attempts to show that they really do love each other very much, but without that attachment to the characters, we never end up feeling much for them.
It certainly doesn’t help that a large error in casting was made. If you want an audience to feel emotion for your character, it’s never a good idea to cast the expressionless Channing Tatum, who has started to remind me of an older Taylor Lautner, not in looks, but in how they are both emotionless and lack the talent necessary for acting. You would think that after witnessing his attempts in films like “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Dear John,” “The Eagle,” and “The Son of No One,” that he would be out of a job very quickly, but like Lautner, he just keeps inexplicably popping up again and again.
The rest of the cast is admirable in their attempts to bring the story to life. McAdams, who has done good work in the past in films like the first “Sherlock Holmes” and “Midnight in Paris,” doesn’t have to do much here besides act like she can’t remember anything. Neill comes off as a bit of a slimy villain as he attempts to set things up the way he wants them now that his daughter can’t remember the last few years. Lange’s talent seems wasted here because other than one revelatory scene near the end of the film, she isn’t given much to do.
The third act also leaves a lot to be desired as it introduces an extremely contrived plot point that leads it to its predictable conclusion. Not only is it predictable, but it ended up feeling quite random how the events came to be, as though the four writers (yes, it took four writers to put this together) just got lazy near the end of the writing phase and just decided that the ending that we know is coming will pop up whether it makes any sense or not.
“The Vow” might have been a decent film had the filmmakers taken the time to allow the characters to develop, or perhaps even if a better actor was cast in the lead, but the way they end up handling the material here doesn’t do it any favors as all it ends up being is a foundation of an interesting topic with no way to get attached to it. It’s interesting to have to say that the same basic premise was handled much better in an episode of “Star Trek: Voyager” than it was in a big budget theatrical film. 2/4 stars.
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