There have been a few times where I have eaten crow after watching a movie. I was skeptical of Harry Potter back in the summer of 2002. I never thought "The Hurt Locker" would have lived up to the hype two and a half years ago. And "United 93" caught me completely off guard. But rarely is it that a movie which I expect to be completely awful shocks me enough to give it a solid positive review.
In the first few moments, The Vow doesn't waste time introducing us to the couple (Paige & Leo, played by McAdams & Tatum), the rising action (Paige loses about seven to eight years of memory) and the conflicts (Leo's inability to convince Paige they are married and Paige's parents' insistence that Paige go back to how things were at the point at which she remembers [understand?]) fairly quickly, even for a 100 minute movie. The parents' conflict could have spiraled into absolute cheeseball and the wanna-be-rekindled romance could have been in Lifetime movie territory.
But something, or someone, got in the way, thankfully. Jason Katims is that someone. Who you may ask? Katims is the Emmy winning writer of beloved yet under-watched TV shows such as classics "My So-Called Life" (including the greatest Christmas episode in TV history), "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood". Katims understands the intricacies of life and love of young adults. It is never more evident than in the 45 minutes after the accident that this script is in good hands. McAdams is better than her average self as the lost Paige. But it is Channing Tatum who shines. That is not a typo. Tatum has to be the heart & soul of this movie and he succeeds.
The flaw, however, is in the overhauled third act. There are hints of cliches throughout but aren't fully expressed until the sister's wedding. The conflict between Paige & her parents is way too obvious and concludes with a speech that makes no sense at all. The ex-boyfriend is really cookie cutter. In fact, if it weren't for the final scene between Tatum and McAdams, this review may not have been all that positive. So Hollywood, listen up: Give Jason Katims more work and Channing Tatum better roles. Did I really just write that second part?
***1/2 (out of five stars)