More layered than expected
Neither particularly romantic nor comedic, “The Vow” nonetheless represents a middling love story that should suit most of its intended audience, relying heavily on some good chemistry between handsome stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.
Tatum is Leo, a quietly sensitive hunk similar to the one he played in the underrated “Dear John.” Leo owns a modest recording studio, while McAdams (continuing to impress with her range, as in the superb “Midnight in Paris”) is Paige, a budding sculptor. The newlyweds are a seemingly happy couple living in downtown Chicago when a car accident throws Paige into a coma. When she emerges, Paige can’t remember the last several years of her life.
Being forced to remember you’re married to Leo wouldn’t seem like a problem for most women, especially after seeing him cuddle a stray kitten with his shirt off. But this “based on true events” story has to go somewhere, so Paige’s preppy past and her troubled relationships with a still-interested ex (Scott Speedman) and controlling parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) come back to haunt her and make for some interesting amnesia-related complications.
Given the treacle that dominates this genre, “The Vow” actually delivers some depth and unpredictability, while not killing our rooting interest in the cute couple getting back together. It may have a happy ending but it’s not the conveniently tied bow that lesser movies (usually starring Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson) practically and predictably require.
A few moments ring false, including a revelation involving Neill and Lange, who seem to be portrayed a little harshly. But it is good to see the once-luminous but still strong as ever Lange on screen. And a monotonous voiceover by Tatum feels completely unnecessary.
Top-shelf romantic comedies that have wide appeal are hard to write and difficult to execute. Even the concept can appear to be a contradiction. (One person’s idea of romance is another person’s punchline.) But “The Vow” is not without merit. And while the jury is still out on Tatum, McAdams is proving to be more versatile than previously opined.
Rated: PG-13 for accident violence, sexual content, partial nudity and language.