"The Vow," this week's movie "inspired" by real events, features, appropriately enough, a Nicholas Sparks All-Stars tandem of Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. It's the story of a man who must try to win his wife's heart all over again after a terrible car crash erases her memories of him.
It's only after the accident that we learn that McAdams' Paige is estranged from her wealthy Lake Forest parents, played by Sam Neill and Jessica Lange, for reasons she can’t recall. Seeing their chance to reconnect, they swoop in to the rescue and elbow the suddenly persona non grata Tatum aside.
There was a time, after "The Notebook" and "Wedding Crashers" that McAdams was poised to be America's new sweetheart--in spite of her Canadian heritage. Like the more recent "Morning Glory," "The Vow" isn't very good, but it reminds you why exactly people thought she was the next big thing. Her smile is impossibly bright and wide, the points nearly reaching her ears, and yet it remains unmistakably sincere... Well, as sincere as an actress' smile has any right to be.
Tatum is one of Hollywood's more bewildering personalities. The former stripper has a screen presence so totally lacking in guile that when he stammers, you can't be sure if it's an actorly affectation or if he's forgotten his line. But there must be something beyond his six-pack abs, as he's been cast by directors ranging from Steven Soderbergh to Michael Mann to Kevin McDonald to Ron Howard to Lasse Hallstrom. You root for him without being sure why exactly.
For all their pluck and aw-shucks super-cuteness, McAdams and Tatum both feel miscast. Leo and Paige are, for lack of a better word, hipsters. She's a sculptor, he owns a recording studio and wears ugly sweaters long out of style; they live in a huge old unfinished industrial space, their friends looked like they were rounded up at a Williamsburg loft party... But the minute you see her back in Lake Forest with her freshly done hair and her claim-diggers, you think she finally looks at home.
The conceit of "The Vow" is harrowing, having the love of your life totally forget you who you are is no doubt beyond wrenching, but the delivery is mostly flat. You can feel the tension between the army of screenwriters wrestling to give the film a voice, there's a thoughtful and deeply moving story trying to shake off the paint-by-numbers emotions we're presented with. Director Michael Sucsy tries too hard to give the film a signature visual style, moving his camera back and forth in an effort to convey pensiveness or depth. And Tatum's narration sounds like a melodramatic teen's journal entries.