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Allen Adams Allen Adams
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Say ‘I don’t’ to ‘The Vow’

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Unlikely love story inoffensive, uninteresting
I have no problem with being emotionally manipulated by a movie. I think those artificial feelings are a huge part of why we go to the movies in the first place. However, when that manipulation becomes too forced and overt, it loses its impact and becomes hollow and false.

It becomes a movie like “The Vow.”

The film stars Channing Tatum (“Haywire”) and Rachel McAdams (“Midnight in Paris”) as Leo and Paige, a young married couple happy and in love in Chicago. Everything changes when the two get into a car accident - an accident that resulted in the loss of Paige’s memory. She forgot everything about the previous five years - including her entire relationship with Leo.

So Leo finds himself in the unenviable position of trying to reintroduce himself to his wife - a woman who is suddenly different from the woman he fell in love with. He tries to help her regain her memory, but the efforts of her dysfunctional family (not to mention her former fiancé) throw obstacles in his path. As he watches her slide seamlessly back into her old ways, he wonders if her memory - and their marriage - can ever be salvaged.

Trust me, it’s even more melodramatic than it sounds.

Tatum strolls through his scenes with an air of amiable confusion, as if nothing is quite what he expected, but he’s OK with it. McAdams’s earnestness wears thin fairly quickly, mostly because her motivations are never really clear. Don’t get me wrong - they’re trying - but these two are several talent tiers below the kinds of actors who could elevate this material. Throw in a supporting cast that alternates between overwrought and disinterested and you’ve got lightweight vanilla at its finest.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with inoffensive if you know what you’re getting into. “The Vow” takes a relatively interesting idea about the nature of memory and love and basically throws a handful of tearjerker clichés at it. Its blandly good-looking leads and its PG-13 histrionics come together into something that isn’t really good per se, but certainly well-crafted. It’s a skillful use of an age-old formula, at any rate.

So is “The Vow” any good? Depends on what you’re looking for. Despite its wild implausibility (though it was inspired by a true story) and uninspired cast, it manages a few moments of real feeling. It’s all a trick of course - a paint-by-numbers method of eliciting emotional response - but it happens nonetheless.

If you like the sort of movie - love stories in particular - specifically designed to make you cry, then “The Vow” is for you. Otherwise, best to give it a miss.

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