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Entries in Channing Tatum (8)

Friday
Feb102012

The Vow

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

Friday
Jan142011

The Dilemma

Over the years, Ron Howard’s name has become synonymous with quality. While it would be hard to deny the talent he possesses both in front of and behind the camera, his last few cinematic ventures have been rocky. Aside from 2008’s Oscar nominated Frost/Nixon, films like The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons have shown a dip, but his latest, titled The Dilemma, makes those movies look like masterpieces. I cannot claim to have seen everything Mr. Howard has directed, but of the films I have, none are worse than this.

It’s a simple story. Ronny (Vince Vaughn) is in a happy relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly). His best friend, Nick (Kevin James) also seems to be happy with his wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), but Ronny soon learns that Geneva is cheating on Nick with a guy named Zip (Channing Tatum). Although he wants to tell him, he’s afraid the information may interfere with their latest business endeavor that could net them a huge deal with a major automotive company, so he keeps it quiet, which leads to heaps of trouble.

So for the next two hours, we watch as Ronny lies to everybody around him, a frustrating screenplay tactic to force in as many wacky scenarios and awkward situations as possible. The Dilemma is one of those movies where all the main character has to do is tell the truth and everything would be fixed. Instead, his ill-advised decisions get dragged to the point where misunderstandings begin to repeat and redundancy kicks in.

If you ask me, deciding whether or not to tell your best friend that his wife is cheating on him is easy. You do it. As the film progressed, however, I wondered if it even mattered. New revelations about all of the characters popped up and I began to realize that, with the exception of Beth, none of them were truly innocent. All had skeletons in their closets, most of which are left shamefully unexplored, including Nick’s weekly visits to a local massage parlor where he may or may not have been receiving sexual favors. The characters are simply too unlikable for us to care whether or not they end up happy. They could have ended up in a gutter somewhere and I would have walked out emotionally the same.

The Dilemma claims to be a comedy, but laughs are non-existent and that’s no exaggeration. When it isn’t taking itself seriously as a laughably half-baked statement on the nature of love and marriage, it dabbles in what some may call jokes. Regardless of how you classify them, they all land flat on the ground like a skateboarder attempting a trick with only three wheels. Both Vaughn and James, two guys I have never found funny, try their hardest to be witty, but have no comedic chemistry. Rather than play off each other, they seem tied down to the script, which at its best is tolerable and at its worst is completely unfunny and painfully maudlin.

There’s something unpleasant about The Dilemma that I can’t quite put my finger on. It could be due to its cynical look at relationships or its borderline deplorable characters, but there’s no real reason to see it. Ron Howard has had an amazing career that isn’t even close to being finished, but he deserves better and so do you.

The Dilemma receives 1/5

Friday
Feb052010

Dear John

When you walk into a theater to see a film based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, you know exactly what you're getting. Much like his previous adaptations, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and The Notebook, Dear John attempts to tug at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, it's so derivative of other romances, not to mention his previous big screen counterparts, that it comes off as hokey, a cloyingly sentimental exercise in derivativeness. You know that old cliché in these types of movies where somebody receives a letter and the writer of the letter is heard reading it through voice-over? Dear John is an hour and 40 minutes of that.

Channing Tatum plays John Tyree, a soldier in the US Army who is on leave for a couple of weeks and back visiting his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. After pretty girl Savannah, played by Amanda Seyfried, stupidly places her purse on the railing of a pier overtop the beach water causing it to fall off, she meets John who jumps in and grabs it for her. She invites him to a party she's throwing that night and sparks fly. Although John has another 12 months to serve, Savannah promises to wait for him. However, during this time, the attacks on September 11th occur which causes him to re-enlist. This means he will be gone for another two years while back home Savannah and his autistic father, played by Richard Jenkins, wait for him. To keep in touch, John and Savannah promise to write each other as often as they can and detail everything they do. This way, they will be with each other all the time even when they aren't at all.

Here's the thing about Dear John. The title obviously reflects back on what occurs in the movie, but a more accurate one would have simply been Montage. Dear John features the largest number of montages in any film in the last 20 years, perhaps ever. If it wasn't a montage that occurred over the aforementioned letter readings, it was while Savannah and John were together kissing and laughing like one of those couples you hate seeing in public. You know the ones; those gooey, mushy pairs who waltz around downtown like they're the only people there, unaware that you don't want to see them shove their tongues down each other's throats.

The thing about this film that irritated me the most though wasn't the annoying excess of montages, or even the manipulative attempt to make me cry. It was that I simply didn't care. It never gave me a reason to. Truth be told, nothing too tragic really occurs. That's not to say what does isn't sad, but considering the alternate possibilities, things could have been a whole lot worse. It went a different route than expected, which I appreciated, but in doing so it took away that emotional punch to the gut that this romance story so desperately needed.

If I'm being honest, Dear John isn't all that bad. It has problems, but it also has some high points. The way the film dealt with the tragedy of 9/11 was smart and focused. It didn't show the panic on a national scale. It showed how it affected a certain number of people in a seemingly small community and how it affected the soldiers, especially the ones already enlisted before the attacks, who found a renewed patriotism within themselves to stay and fight despite a waiting family back home.

The chemistry between Tatum and Seyfried was also surprisingly authentic. I bought their relationship, at least when they were together, though for much of the movie they were not. Their emotions ran the gamut during different situations and it was nice to see some flexibility in their acting, though Tatum is still not convincing during the more intense scenes.

All of that is handled with poise, but it's another one of those movies you watch and ask yourself when it's over: what's the point? There's nothing new about Dear John and its incessant use of cheesy montages will dissuade many from taking a liking to it. It's better than A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe, but doesn't come close to the effectiveness of The Notebook. Dear John rests squarely in the middle of those two extremes.

Dear John receives 2/5

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