The Vow plays just like a Nicholas Sparks book adaptation. Two characters fall in love, but are then torn apart by a terrible event. That idyllic love is shattered and needs to be rebuilt, but there are numerous factors prohibiting that from happening. Even the ending, albeit in a less manipulative way, seems like something a sap like him would dream up. The only thing it’s missing is an actual Nicholas Sparks writing credit. It’s not surprising then that early word of mouth has been good among fans of movies like The Notebook. The stories are identical—a man tries to help the woman he loves reclaim her memory so she will love him again—and it features the same passion that this demographic loves. It’s not quite as good as The Notebook, but it’s better than every other Sparks adaptation (if that means anything at this point). It’s no prize winner, but The Vow is a serviceable romance for the upcoming Valentine’s Day crowd.
Leo (Channing Tatum) is married to Paige (Rachel McAdams). They love each other dearly, but one night, a truck rear ends them and Paige is thrown through the windshield. After waking up from a weeks long coma, Paige doesn’t remember anything in her recent life, including Leo. Her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) show up to comfort her, hoping to reclaim her love after years of separation for unknown reasons, but Leo insists Paige stay with him. He needs to remind her how much she loves him because he simply can’t live without her.
Yes, it’s true that The Vow is yet another sappy, ridiculous romance movie that occasionally manipulates viewer emotions with contrivances and silly screenplay love talk, but it has its heart in the right place and it doesn’t pound you over the head with prophetic nonsense about the value of love and how it can save a life, ad nauseam. It’s simply about a man who loves his wife unconditionally and will do anything to get her back. It’s a respectable road to take in a cinematic world where love is unrealistically portrayed with impulsive exaggeration, creating a false view of it for females everywhere.
But where The Vow shines is in the chemistry of the two leads, which comes as a surprise given Channing Tatum’s poor track record in romance films (or any other films, for that matter), but he’s good here and creates a sympathetic character. Any man in the audience need only think how awful it would be to be in his shoes to understand his feelings, even if we’ve never personally felt them before. A lot of this is, of course, due to Rachel McAdams who is once again radiant. She’s so lovely and warm that it would seem insane for Leo to not go to the great lengths he does to win her over again. Her amiable screen presence lends credibility to the tale at hand and does more than enough to make up for the film’s flaws, of which there are many.
Despite likable leads and a love story that doesn’t get too gushy, it’s hard not to criticize just how dumb this movie can be. The characters, though played well, aren’t the brightest people in the world and you’ll stare in amazement as they ignore important information and end up in preposterous situations. Take for instance when Paige first wakes up. The doctor is hopeful that she’ll regain her memory, but doing that means getting back into her daily routine. The sooner she gets back to her normal life the better, but Leo doesn’t help her do that. He simply takes her home and finds it to be sufficient. Sure, he explains that the first thing she does in the morning is make coffee and check her emails, but that’s hardly an effort at all on his part. Instead, he heads off to work while she’s stuck in a place she doesn’t remember and feels uncomfortable in.
Once at this point, the screenplay starts to treat Paige like she lost her intelligence rather than just her memory. Despite not remembering anything, including where she is, she ventures outside (without a cell phone), turns a few corners and gets herself lost. It’s a scene that exists solely so she can call her mother to pick her up, beginning a string of events that couldn’t be more manufactured if you tried to make them so. The writers seem to have profound disrespect for the characters they’re writing about, but the performances pull it through.
The Vow doesn't reinvent the romance genre, but it at least tries, which is more than can be said for most other romances these days. I’m sure some guys will bicker and pout to their girlfriends in an attempt to get something in return after being forced to sit through it this Valentine’s Day, probably to decent success, but what the ladies won’t realize is that the guys secretly liked it.
The Vow receives 2.5/5