Starring: Channing Tatum,
Director: Michael Sucsy
Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes a sugarcoated romance movie to warm hearts, but be warned — instead of the MPAA rating, it should just say “romantics only.” This is for the die-hards who love a good love story, no matter how sticky sweet. And it never hurts if the leads are movie-star gorgeous.
This is based on a true story of a woman who lost the memory of her husband after a serious brain injury. Stick around for the end credits to find out what happened to them. As for the movie, it begins on a snowy Chicago night as the much-in-love couple — Leo and Paige — exit a movie theater. A few minutes later a snowplow rear-ends their car, sending her through the windshield. Days later when she awakes from a coma, she thinks Leo (Channing Tatum) is her doctor, instead of her husband.
Paige (Rachel McAdams) can only remember up to a certain point, and it conveniently deletes any memory of Leo or their courtship and eventual marriage, going back five years before. She doesn’t even remember that she is estranged from her wealthy parents (played by Sam Neill and the omnipresent Jessica Lange) who show up at the hospital to take her back to the wealthy ZIP code of Lake Forest.
In Paige’s new reality, she’s still a law student having forgotten she eschewed that career path for one as a sculptor studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. Now the modeling clay under her fingers feels as foreign to her as Leo’s rippling six-pack abs. But he’s determined to re-romance her even as she is drawn to a former boyfriend, Jeremy (Scott Speedman), a smarmy ex she doesn’t remember dumping, who sees an opportunity to win her back.
Tatum and McAdams are both pretty people, which makes this fluffy confection go down a little easier. Everything is so perfect, from their loft digs in downtown Chicago to their marriage. Leo is the perfect man, saying and doing all the right things. Flashbacks reveal that before the accident there are no visible cracks in their relationship. Even their self-scripted wedding vows perfectly (and cutely) articulate their love for one another.
True romantics will sigh and dab their eyes as Leo realizes Paige is slipping away into her pre-Leo life. She’s back to being a preppy instead of the faux bohemian artist he fell for, ditching her paint-spattered khakis and beaters for pastel sweater twin sets and ballet flats. McAdams gamely takes on the character’s emotional state to match her new wardrobe as Paige goes from being an interesting woman of substance to literally a blank slate.
Meanwhile Tatum is directed to take off his shirt — and other clothing — at every opportunity. OK, OK, we get it. You are super fit and have the biceps to prove it. All this half-dressed preening unfortunately undercuts the fact that Tatum does have some acting chops. He won’t win any Academy Awards, but it’s not completely out of the question he could be nominated — but not for this. He falls into the Brad Pitt category as an actor who will always be able to get by on charm and looks until the right part comes along to challenge him.
This is one of those “it is what it is” movies. And what it is is a pretty decent love story that doesn’t pretend to be anything but hearts and flowers and rainbows and a box of chocolates. This “Vow” vows to do no harm and succeeds.