Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams in "The Vow"
If the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore chuckler "50 First Dates" had been recast as a romantic drama and produced by the Oprah Winfrey Network, "The Vow" might have been the result. Fortunately, leads Rachel McAdams ("Midnight in Paris") and Channing Tatum ("Haywire") serve up solid performances and help keep the film somewhat grounded despite its lofty proclamations about love and loyalty.
The fledgling passion-fueled marriage between young sweethearts Leo (Tatum) and Paige (McAdams) comes crashing to a halt when a truck slams into their car on an ice-covered road, sending Paige through the front windshield and into the ER. When she awakes from an induced coma, she has no memory of Leo or their time together. Paige's most recent recollections come from well before she met Leo, while she was still on speaking terms with her judgmental socialite parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange).
Paige's doctor recommends she return to her normal routine -- life with Leo in their Chicago apartment -- in hopes of rekindling her lost memories. While Leo desperately tries to remind Paige of her forgotten life, she retreats to the comfort of the family and friends she can recall, including her sleazy former fiance, Jeremy (Scott Speedman of "Underworld"). Leo sets aside his responsibilities as the owner of a small recording studio and endures one awkward situation after another to win Paige back.
Tatum and McAdams have a comfortable chemistry and their relationship is mostly believable, though clearly over-romanticized. Tatum is a pleasant surprise and his character is sympathetic despite the picture's layer of Hollywood schmaltz. Neill is smartly cast as Paige's shady father, while Lange's appearance seems to have been marred by cosmetic surgery, which overshadows her otherwise decent performance.
The romantic, cheesy scenarios that abound in "The Vow" range from somewhat endearing to nauseatingly saccharine. In one flashback scene, Leo uses blueberries to write "Move in?" on Paige's breakfast plate; in another, a sick Paige opens a care package from Leo while he stands outside in the pouring rain. The picture's costuming is questionable at best, although some viewers may not be bothered by Tatum's several shirtless appearances (and one very gratuitous butt shot).
At times it is difficult to watch Leo and Paige struggle through such a heart-wrenching experience. Leo and Paige are generally either elated or distraught, with very little middle ground. And while the characters in Paige's life are moderately fleshed out, including her parents and sister (Jessica McNamee), those in Leo's life are numbingly one-note.
While most films nowadays include 3D glasses, "The Vow" comes with the rose-colored variety.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language and an accident scene. 1 hour, 44 minutes.
- Tyler Hanley