Get unlimited digital access to baltimoresun.com. $0.99 for 4 weeks.

'The Vow' review: An unconvincing rendition of the unthinkably sad

** (out of four)
 
Channing Tatum gets a bad rap, but the failings of “The Vow” lie primarily on his (often-bare) shoulders.
 
The Chicago-set story, inspired by true events but told like an ordinary, contrived slice of soap, brings an ocean of sorrow: Paige (Rachel McAdams) wakes up, following a brain injury-causing car accident and coma, with no memory of her husband Leo (Tatum). While she retreats to her parents (Sam Neill, Jessica Lange) and ex-fiance (Scott Speedman) and other people she does remember, Leo’s tasked with the challenge of making his better half see him as more than a stranger, and then as her love again. Yes, that should remind you of “50 First Dates,” and yes, that should tug at your heart anyway.
 
So the carpet is pretty much yanked out from underneath “The Vow” as Tatum—hilarious in “The Dilemma,” good enough in the underrated “Dear John” and as funny as a poorly written “Saturday Night Live” episode allowed him to be—refuses to credibly emote like someone whose spouse no longer recognizes any of what they share. Of course, Leo’s grateful that Paige is alive and able to walk and talk. But his world should be shattered. During moments that should sting, Tatum looks neither crushed nor numb. Just flat. And certainly not filled with the wounded but resilient determination of a guy who earlier in the movie belts out Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” as if he means it, sans parenthetical.
 
Much of “The Vow” sticks to the surface, particularly Paige’s rich, snooty, Lake Forest-dwelling parents and their annoyingly devious scheme to put Paige’s life back on its previous track, before she stopped speaking to them for years. McAdams, however, acquits herself well to a challenging role. Paige transforms from a creative, glowing newlywed to someone confused, lonely and lost. Like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “The Lookout,” McAdams communicates the alienating, post-brain injury frustration of searching for something upstairs behind a door that refuses to be unlocked.
 
Perhaps co-writer Jason Katims’ (“Friday Night Lights”) stamp can be seen in Leo’s job owning a recording studio (Dax Shepard’s character owns a studio on the Katims-produced “Parenthood”), or in the warm, stirring moments when Paige and Leo share the giddy, effortless laughter of people carving out their own world. Mostly “The Vow” seems to owe more to co-writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (“He’s Just Not That Into You”), who shouldn’t add so much manipulation into something tragic, and shouldn’t continually rely on Leo to tell us in voiceover about his theory regarding major moments and how they define us. No one would disagree with that, man.
 
P.S. If you’re wondering what Chicago spots appear in the movie, here’s a sampling:
 
Music Box
Blue Bayou
The Art Institute
Millennium Park/The Bean
#50 Damen bus stop
Club Lucky
A RedEye box!

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Hot Hollywood interviews
    Hot Hollywood interviews

    The most memorable quotes from our latest movie Q&As, including Sienna Miller, Emily Ratajkowski, David Oyelowo/Ava DuVernay, Eddie Redmayne, Jon Stewart/Maziar Bahari, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Damien Chazelle, Ger Duany/Emmanuel Jal, Jocelyn DeBoer/Ingrid Haas,...

  • Shrug-worthy new movies
    Shrug-worthy new movies

    'The Wedding Ringer,' 'Spare Parts,' 'Leviathan,' 'The Interview,' 'Big Eyes,' 'Unbroken,' 'Annie,' 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,' 'Top Five,' 'The Imitation Game,' 'The Two Faces of January,' 'The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,' 'Horrible Bosses 2,' 'Happy Valley,' 'The...

  • Best new movies
    Best new movies

    Reviews of recent favorites like 4-star 'A Most Violent Year,' 'American Sniper,' 'Paddington,' 'Two Days, One Night,' 'Still Alice,' 'Selma,' 'Inherent Vice,' 'The Gambler,' 'Mr. Turner,' 'The Babadook,' 'Wild,' 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part 1,' 'Foxcatcher,' 'Food Chains,' 'Force...

  • Worst new movies
    Worst new movies

    The recent awfulness we've seen, like 'Blackhat,' 'Predestination,' 'Into the Woods,' 'Exodus: Gods and Kings,' 'America the Beautiful 3,' 'Dumb and Dumber To,' 'The Better Angels,' 'Interstellar,' 'Laggies,' 'Low Down,' 'Ouija,' '23 Blast,' 'Stonehearst Asylum,' 'The Best of Me,' 'The...

  • 'Complex series of storms' begins to drop snow on Maryland
    'Complex series of storms' begins to drop snow on Maryland

    Baltimore could get several inches of snow by Tuesday, a glancing blow from what the National Weather Service called a "potentially historic" blizzard that has New York and Boston bracing for record snowfalls this week.

  • Nor'easter threatens Northeast with up to 2 feet of snow
    Nor'easter threatens Northeast with up to 2 feet of snow

    Officials cautioned Northeast residents to not be misled by a relatively smooth Monday morning commute, and pressed their cautions to prepare for a "crippling and potentially historic" storm that could bury communities from northern New Jersey to southern Maine in up to 2 feet of snow...

  • Four children fall through ice on Baltimore County pond
    Four children fall through ice on Baltimore County pond

    Four children were rescued after falling through ice into a pond at Lansdowne High School Sunday afternoon, the Baltimore County Fire Department said.

  • The latest in Dan Duquette saga, incentives for Ryan Flaherty
    The latest in Dan Duquette saga, incentives for Ryan Flaherty

    The latest chapter in the Dan Duquette drama took another step forward on Sunday, fueled by a SportsNet report out of Canada that the Toronto Blue Jays have ended negotiations with the Orioles on a compensation package to let Duquette out of his contract.

Comments
Loading