Lately, when a movie starts with the words “based on true events,” we’re usually in for another iteration of the found footage genre. Thankfully The Vow spares us from all of that shakey-camera’d nonsense, but that’s about all it spares us from.
Inspired by the real life case of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter (getting a substantial aesthetic upgrade in the form of Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams), and scripted by committee, The Vow is an emotionally inert, wannabe weepie that hits all of the expected romance movie stereotypes, shooting squarely for the middle-of-the-road and staying the course for its duration.
Yes, The Vow movie that exists solely to cash in on pre-Valentine’s Day box office and the idea that couples everywhere will be inspired to celebrate their love by ogling the extremely toned hindquarters of the star of Step Up, but just because there’s a guaranteed audience does that mean the movie needs to be so darned predictable and outright dull?
Tatum and McAdams play Leo and Paige, a devoted couple living an idyllic boho-chic life – she’s a moderately successful sculptress; he runs an up-and-coming recording studio – in downtown Chicago until tragedy strikes and their car is hit by a truck, propelling Paige through the windshield and into a coma. When she finally wakes up, she finds that the last 5 years of her life – the entire duration of her city existence and relationship with Leo – has been wiped out completely.
Gone are the recollections of their meet-cute at the parking permit office, their sickly sweet courtship and rogue wedding at an art museum surrounded by sexy hipsters in top hats and ill-fitting thrift store tuxedos, wherein Paige vowed to (among other things) live within the warmth of Leo’s heart.
In her mind, she’s still wearing sweater-sets, living at home with her controlling parents (Sam Neill, Jessica Lange) in their posh neighbourhood, attending law school and engaged to a rakish playboy named Jeremy (the fetching yet flat Scott Speedman).
It seems strange to her that she would have traded in her seemingly perfect upper class life to live in a studio apartment, become a vegetarian, get a tattoo and marry a guy who, although sweet, is not going to provide her with a country club lifestyle.
Leo sets out to convince Paige that she has it in her to fall in love with him all over again, even though his attempts are constantly being interfered with by her parents, who are hiding the reason Paige stopped talking to them 5 years earlier and Jeremy who sees Paige’s amnesia as a way to re-write his history with her.
Director Michael Sucsy (the recent HBO version of Grey Gardens) and writers Jason Katims (TV’s Parenthood) and Abby Kohn (He’s Just Not That Into You) have created a wholly vanilla film that manages to bungle the inherent drama in the premise, not to mention the intrigue of figuring out why Paige so dramatically turned her back on her old life and the heart-wrenching new existence of a love triangle.
Instead the film doggedly pursues the ultra-romantic notion that if the fates really intended Leo and Paige to be together their chemistry will be strong enough to transcend having to start over, and the film suffers for it. As a result, the movie feels complacent, safe, and ultimately shrug-worthy. Ok, so that happened…moving on.
Ultimately The Vow works well enough to adequately satisfy anyone looking for a fluffy date or girls’ night bauble that doesn’t tax the brain or cause you to embarrass yourself by audibly blubbering into your popcorn (that’s best left to the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, out this spring), but not unlike Paige and Leo’s courtship, it’s simply not memorable enough to make it a movie worth recommending.
Thankfully The Vow spares us from all of that shakey-camera’d nonsense, but that’s about all it spares us from.