It’s hard to explain just how bad ‘The Vow’ truly is without getting mean about it. I’ll do my best here, but no promises. In short…my god, I hope this winds up being the worst film of 2012, because if there’s something worse lurking out there for me, it’s going to be a painful experience. This is a romantic melodrama devoid of an embraceable romance, drama even a half step above the worst you see on daytime soap operas, and indifferent acting that shows that the performers have as much contempt for the production as you do. Now I like Rachel McAdams, and enjoyed ‘The Notebook’ more than I should admit, while perhaps being the most vocal fan of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ in the entire critical community, but here she’s mediocre at best and annoying at worst. As for Channing Tatum, this is as bad as I’ve ever seen him. He usually does absolutely nothing for me, but this is worse. To be fair, I did like him in both ‘A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints’ and ‘Stop-Loss’ (and he’s been average on a few occasions besides those), so I know he’s capable of not stinking up the joint. That’s not the case here, and the odor coming from not just his performance but every single aspect of this movie is enough to make you dizzy. The only goal of this movie is to make you cry. It’s perhaps going to be effective in getting some audience members to sob during the most cloying scenes, but it’s wholly incapable of being a film of any quality whatsoever. This is the first lock for my Bottom 10 of 2012 list, and it’s a safe bet to assume it won’t be moving off of it anytime soon.
As with every third movie out there, this one is “inspired by a true story”, though calling it that is being generous to the term “broad strokes”. This is a 99.9999% fictionalized account of a married couple who had to deal with the wife suffering memory loss after an accident. Here, we have Paige (McAdams) awaking from a coma with no memory of the last 5 years of her life, including every single aspect of her relationship with her husband Leo (Tatum). Her snob parents Bill (Sam Neill) and Rita (Jessica Lange) want to take her back to her privileged life that she had before she met Leo, but he wants to keep her with him so that she can be among the things he hopes she remembers. Of course her parents secretly want to get her back without her knowledge (she wasn’t speaking to them when the accident occurred), and her renewed attraction to her ex-fiance Jeremy (Scott Speedman) doesn’t bother them in the least either. Leo resolves to get his wife to remember/fall back in love with him, no matter what it takes. What this winds up being is scene after scene of Paige frustrating Leo, then being happy with her family, then flirting with Jeremy, then fighting with Leo, followed by Leo staring blankly into space. It’s repetitive in the worst ways possible. The film also changes the motivations of its characters on multiple whims, so it’s like dealing with a whole new set of characters. After a while, having your memory damaged didn’t seem like such a bad thing to me, especially if it could help me forget this crappy movie.
I had hoped that some nice romantic sparks between Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, combined with the former’s normally reliably good performances would make this tolerable for me. Oh how wrong I was, as McAdams and Tatum both turn in career low performances, and the rest of the cast isn’t far behind them. McAdams works so hard to make her pre-injury Paige so much better of a person than her post-injury and pre-Leo self that you just wish he’d give up trying to make her fall back in love with him. Her performance just rings false on every level. As for Tatum, it’s generous to even call what he does a performance. Mostly he just looks bored and confused, despite being the rational one in the group. He’s obviously there for his sex appeal to women, but he brings nothing to the table besides that, and it’s depressing that he’s become a box office draw for this type of work. As mentioned before, he’s done quality work in the past, but if this is what he plans to continue doing, I’ll have to start avoiding his work. As for the supporting players, Sam Neill and Jessica Lange sleepwalk through their poorly written roles, while Scott Speedman smirks through his. The rest of the cast includes Jessica McNamee, Wendy Crewson, and Tatiana Maslany, to name a few, and they’re given just as little to do. It’s just a complete mess.
The writing is embarrassingly poor, and the direction has nothing to offer. Co-writer/director Michael Sucsy is in over his head and doesn’t bring anything to the table. The directorial choices are bland and manipulative, while the script always rings false. Scribes Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Stuart Sender, and Marc Silverstein (along with Sucsy) follow every cliche in the book and have nothing original to say. It’s downright terrible. The only even mediocre line is a throwaway remark about Radiohead, and giving them credit for that is being rather generous.
There’s nothing to like about ‘The Vow’, and it seems to know it. How else do you explain the half-assedness that seems to permeate the screen at all times? I wish I had something nice to say about it, but this about as bad as movies get. Valentine’s Day usually brings a slightly higher class of romance flick to screens, but this year is a really noticeable exception. This is a terrible movie and should be avoided at all costs. Anything is better than this garbage. I wish I could forget that I was subjected to it. Look for it when I announce my Worst of 2012 list next year…it’s really that poorly done. Avoid this turd at all costs.
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Tags: Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Rachel McAdams, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman, The Vow