Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill, Jessica McNamee, Wendy Crewson, Tatiana Maslany, Lucas Bryant, Scott Speedman, Joey Klein, Joe Cobden, Jeananne Goossen, Dillon Casey, Shannon Barnett, Lindsay Ames
Written by: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Michael Sucsy, based on a story by Stuart Sender
Directed by: Michael Sucsy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language
Running Time: 104
Date: 02/09/2012

The Vow (2012)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Forget Me Not

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Images from The Vow make it look like another Rachel McAdams romance, like The Notebook or The Time Traveler's Wife. That may be good news for some, but it's not so good for those of us that like our romance movies a bit less... goopy.

Happily, The Vow is a good deal sweeter and funnier than it looks. And McAdams' co-star, Channing Tatum, is also a good deal sweeter and funnier than he has ever been before; usually he's just sort of a blank-faced gladiator. Here he lays his heart on the table, and it's nice to see.

The movie takes some twists and turns that are not very bright and require large stretches of the imagination, but overall it's passable.

The Vow is inspired by the true story of a woman who woke up after an auto accident with absolutely no memory of her husband. In real life, she simply went back to him and they are still married to this day. But a movie requires a bit more drama.

So Paige (McAdams) wakes up and meets her husband, Leo (Tatum). She doesn't remember him at all, but she does remember her parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) and also a former boyfriend (Scott Speedman).

What she also doesn't remember is that she has left her former life entirely behind and has had nothing to do with any of these people for years. Her first clue is that Leo and her parents have never met. She left her privileged upbringing and law school for life as a sculptor.

Now it's up to Leo to win her back. This isn't as easy as it might be in a fluffy romantic comedy, but it's also not as tragic as it would be if this were Nicholas Sparks. It's rather an ingenious setup: the tension is constant, and it's such a unique situation that there's no easy answer.

Although it's pretty easy to notice when Leo screws up, like throwing a huge "welcome home" surprise party and inviting the dozens of friends that Paige doesn't remember anymore.

Director Michael Sucsy, who made the TV movie version of Grey Gardens and makes his feature debut here, can't quite smooth over the weak motives in the screenplay, but he does keep things from flying off into stupidity. There's no slapstick, no stupid "best friend" characters, and no fart jokes; there's also no in-the-nick-of-time conclusion. It's a genuine attempt at grown-up filmmaking, which is admirable.

The Vow still feels a bit too convenient, with a few too many short cuts and saggy spots, but it's a rare and heartfelt Hollywood romance that shouldn't hurt too many date nights.

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