Review: The Vow (2012)

Directed by: Michael Sucsy
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill

Valentine’s Day. The perfect opportunity for studios to churn out the most cheesily earnest, overblown romantic comedy in an attempt to recoup a rather hefty paycheck following an unexpectedly overwhelming opening weekend. In keeping with this not-so-desirable trend, we’ve been graced this year with Michael Sucsy’s The Vow, of which is purportedly “inspired by true events” and revolves around a husband’s attempts to restore his amnesiac wife’s memory following a traumatic car accident. What ensues is a barrage of mostly predictable, underwhelming and slightly frustrating scenarios that don’t quite pack the emotional punch necessary to satisfy those unashamedly fond of such trite sap.

In giving credit where credit’s due, the film at least gets off on the right foot by effectively establishing the groundwork for the titular couple’s ideal relationship, reflecting back on their first meeting and eventual marriage in an attempt to make Tatum’s Leo’s efforts to win back his fleeting wife’s heart ring with at least some semblance of authenticity. Unfortunately, the film can’t quite overcome the amount of cliches it not-so-subtly bombards us with, from Paige’s (Rachel McAdams) mysterious falling out with her well-to-do family to a former male suitor inevitably reentering the picture after she conveniently blocks out any and all memories involving Leo and their life together. From here on, The Vow doesn’t quite aptly illustrate Paige and her estranged spouse’s mounting frustrations as well as it should, rendering any and all characters incredibly one-dimensional and unquestionably transparent regarding their involvement in the former’s recovery.

There’s the requisite tug-of-war that exists between Leo and his arrogant in-laws, a warranted outburst of emotional sincerity here and there, yet none of the situations presented manage to cleverly surpass aforementioned genre conventions established by films far less self-important than this. In at least trying to keep the narrative engaging by way of sidestepping straightforward predictability, the screenwriters fail pretty miserably as events we all knew would unfold indeed do so but at irregular intervals. Paige’s moment of realization regarding the voluntary disowning of her family isn’t nearly as gratifying as it should be considering how drastic a life change it was for her, and the insights the film tries to impose upon us dealing with the complexities and questionable importance of familial ties feel forced and insincere along with Leo’s overly earnest, cutesy and agreeably sappy endeavor to reclaim his wife’s affection.

McAdams turns in a solid performance while doing what she can with the material, however the character of Paige herself unintentionally comes off as unlikable as she consistently resorts to memories of her previously conservative trek through life to pave the way to recovery. Tatum on the other hand is steadily proving his worth as a serviceable leading man, bringing just enough conviction to the role to help bring some sense of balance to the rote bulk of the proceedings. Sam Neill and Jessica Lange as Paige’s one-track-minded parents are an odd fit, however their efforts are rather negligible in the long run despite the former’s increased involvement, and the rest of the supporting cast is quite literally as insubstantial as a sole bug splattering on your car’s windshield.

The Vow, while suitably following in the footsteps of previous Valentine’s Day-centric schlock, fails to bring anything new or reasonably engaging to the table despite the severity of the titular female’s predicament and the overtly sappy nature of the bulk of the proceedings. Nothing feels particularly honest from an emotional standpoint, the mystery surrounding McAdams’ character’s peculiar switch from right to left in terms of her life’s trajectory miraculously underwhelming and the efforts of the cast drowned out by the sheer predictability of it all. All things considered, the film is a pretty monumental failure, forgoing something potentially agreeable as your typical date movie by relentlessly succumbing to convention and simply failing in terms of overall execution and a glaring lack of chemistry between its two leads.

Rating: 3/10

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