With Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman. Written by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Jason Katims. Directed by Michael Sucsy. Rated PG-13 (for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language). 104 minutes.
Some people like having their buttons pushed. Give them a romance about two beautiful Hollywood stars having to overcome some extreme obstacle to find true love, and they’ll eat it up. That’s the audience for THE VOW, which, incredibly, is not based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. It’s certainly maudlin and contrived enough, but instead we’re told it’s “inspired” by a true story.
Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are this beautiful Chicago married couple. She’s a sculptor who just got a big commission, while he’s a musician who’s just opened his own recording studio. They’re young, they’re in love, they’re artistic – obviously, they’re headed for trouble. In this case, it is a car accident which leaves Paige with amnesia. She remembers her parents and her fiancée (with whom she broke it off before meeting Leo), but of Leo she knows nothing.
When Mom (a frightening Jessica Lange) and Dad (a cold Sam Neill) show up ready to take Paige “home” – having never met Leo – we know we’re in for a bumpy ride. Much of the film plays like a dark and twisted version of “Meet The Parents,” as Leo has to deal not only with his nasty in-laws but the fact that his own wife doesn’t recognize him. It gets worse. The fiancée (Scott Speedman) shows up and seems more than happy at Paige’s renewed interest in him.
Leo tries to restore her memory, but nothing seems to work, and things go from bad to worse. Even an attempt to start anew when he asks her out on a “date” leaves him in a situation where he wonders if he’ll ever get the love of his life back. Have you gotten out your hankies yet? How it’s resolved will not be revealed here, but those looking for a mawkish movie for the weekend before Valentine’s Day will not be disappointed.
While Channing Tatum has yet to impress as actor (reminding one of Dorothy Parker’s devastating quip about a performer “running the gamut of emotions from A to B”), McAdams is actress who continues to do wonderful work, but has yet to land that big breakout role. While movies like “The Notebook” and this one may help pay the bills, she deserves better. Meanwhile, at 62, Jessica Lange seems to have laid out in the sun too long. Sam Neill is two years older, yet doesn’t look like he’s auditioning for “Tales From The Crypt.” Both play selfish, manipulative characters who are simply unpleasant to have on screen.
“The Vow” is one of those movies where even romantics might have trouble swallowing the plot contrivances, even with the photo of the “real” couple at the end of the film. If you drag your loved one to see it, be advised: you will owe that person big-time.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.