“The Vow,” written by Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Michael Suscy and Stuart Sender (story), directed by Suscy, 104 minutes, rated PG-13.
The heart of any good on-screen romance comes from the chemistry of its two leads. Strangely, this year’s token Valentine’s Day release, Michael Suscy’s “The Vow,” goes against that adage by using amnesia as a wedge between the film’s couple. It’s a cheap plot device that never seems to go out of fashion.
A car accident leaves Paige (Rachel McAdams) in a coma and with serious damage to her brain. When she wakes up, she has forgotten her husband, Leo (Channing Tatum) entirely – from the moment they met to their marriage. With her memory of Leo wiped clean, Paige begins to use her estranged and wealthy family as a crutch, trying to regain her missing years while distancing herself from the love of her life in the process.
Giving up hope on trying to bring back her memories, Leo decides to go all out to get Paige to fall back in love with him. These are the moments that would make the most devout Valentine’s Day opponent smile. But Paige’s thought process regresses to that of a pre-teenage girl, making irrational decisions that don’t add up to her close friends or the audience. This is the film’s most frustrating aspect.
“The Vow” ultimately turns into a showcase for Tatum to woo the audience more than his leading lady, pushing the bubbly Paige out of the way. While McAdams, an actress with a more established track record than her counterpart, struggles to find the right tone for Paige, Tatum fits as Leo.
Tatum, who has spent most of his career bouncing back and forth between being an action hero and a heartthrob, has left many movie-goers questioning his range. I would urge anyone in this camp to compare Leo in “The Vow” to Antonio in “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” and see just what Tatum is capable of.
That’s not to say the material here challenges Tatum in the least, nor will it challenge viewers. It’s a popcorn love story that is fairly benign when compared to Katherine Heigl’s filmography – a Nicholas Sparks’ story without the sap, or a romantic comedy that doesn’t quite succumb to the cookie-cutter mold prevalent in Hollywood. Backhanded compliments aside, it’s Tatum’s charisma that really carries “The Vow.”