Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: The Vow

I think anyone who has read my blog may have come away with the sense that I don’t like movies focusing on matters of the heart.  That’s simply not true.  Some of my favorite movies are completely relationship driven like (500) Days of Summer and When Harry Met Sally.  I just don’t like poorly done romance flicks.   Unfortunately, there is no shortage of those (thank you, Nicholas Sparks).  So when I first saw the trailer for The Vow, I quickly tried to change the channel because I knew my girlfriend would want to see it.  Sure, there was no way I could enforce a month-long media blackout, but I had to try.  So when the movie’s theatrical run had ended without incident, I thought I was in the clear.  Thanks to the home entertainment market, I was wrong.

The Vow is based on the true story of a woman (Paige) who suffers partial amnesia and forgets the portions of her life that surround her marriage.  The plot follows her quest to rediscover herself, and her husband’s (Leo) crusade to rekindle their relationship.  It’s a semi-interesting concept as amnesia is usually a good movie mechanism to build a plot around, but it’s nothing overly groundbreaking.

So here’s the deal.  The movie had a ton of problems.  It could have been a more robust narrative but director Michael Sucsy seems so intent on loading the movie with those contrived scenes that are marked by diabetic-shock inducing dialogue that key plot turns are glossed over and obscured by cheap sentiment.  It’s pandering at its worst.  It doesn’t matter how the film gets from point A to point B as long as you get those shots of Channing Tatum’s Leo staring longingly at Rachel McAdam’s Paige.  That the two actors are incredibly miscast as a hipster recording guru and a lawyer-turned-vegan-sculpture respectively thus takes a back seat to the lack of real story telling.

The one thing the movie has going for it is that the characters you are supposed to despise – Sam Neill as Paige’s sleeze bag father and Scott Speedman as her ex-fiance – are incredibly easy to loathe.  Of the cast, these two seem to best fit the roles for which they have been cast and in doing so, their performances cast Tatum’s Leo in a favorable light.  However, that’s where my plaudits for the movie pretty much end.  Most troubling for the film is that McAdams’ Paige skews towards the annoying and is very difficult to empathize with.  This prevents the movie from redeeming itself in the third act with a fresh coat of sentiment.  Thus, things never really come together.

As for the rest of the cast, no one really stands out.  They are stock characters moved around the screen like pawns on a proverbial chessboard to facilitate the game.  And while a pawn can greatly affect the outcome of a match, none of the supporting players in the film are up to the task of stealing the show.

I want to be fair here and say that while I would never recommend this movie, I am sure that it works for some people – those movie lovers who can find sentiment even in the weakest of scripts despite mediocre acting and poor directing.  For those viewers I say that you should absolutely rent this movie on a lonely Saturday night when it’s raining and it’s just you, your snuggie, and a warm cup of cocoa.  For everyone else, I recommend you take a pass.  There are countless other movie titles out there that will provide you with that sentimental fix.  If it is more Channing Tatum you seek, then I would suggest 21 Jump Street.  And for you Rachel McAdams fans, I suggest you go old school and treat yourself to a viewing of Mean Girls.

Standout Performance: Sam Neil – very few actors can successfully alternate between playing noble characters and complete douche bags.  Neil is one of those actors.


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