First things first: If I get in a car accident, suffer a traumatic head injury, and emerge from a coma to find Channing Tatum telling me that he’s my husband, I’m just going to go with it. Even if I don’t recognize him.
This is not, however, the reaction of Paige (Rachel McAdams) in The Vow, a romantic drama that tests a young married couple after just such a situation. Paige’s reaction is to recoil in horror, which puts her at odds with the audience, most of which will be female and there willingly, and some of which will be male because sometimes you just have to take your girlfriend to a movie she wants to see or she’s never going to let you play Call of Duty with your friends.
The good news is, The Vow is not excruciating; it’s just a matter of waiting until the couple — which includes Tatum as good guy Leo — works out Paige’s memory issues. Chicago, where the film is set, looks gorgeous on film, and Tatum (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Haywire), who takes a lot of heat from critics for being wooden, is actually the saving grace of the movie. His straightforward Leo, a man whose happiness has been threatened by a fate he can’t control, grounds the story; The Vow is “inspired by true events,” but there’s more than a whiff of soap opera here. Take the amnesia, for example: Paige only remembers her life before she met Leo, and Tatum, who covered romantic hero ground capably in Dear John, must persuade her to love him again.
Some of you just got weak in the knees thinking about that swoony set-up, but the post-accident Paige is almost too unpleasant to root for. When we first meet her, she’s a free spirit, a sculptor, the sort of brash young woman who writes her wedding vows on a menu and gets married surreptitiously in an art museum. After the accident, she reverts to an upscale preppy with shallow, vapid friends, a predatory ex who reeks of money (Scott Speedman) and Lake Forest-dwelling parents (Sam Neill, Jessica Lange) whom Leo has never met. Dad and mom want Paige to return to their moneyed fold, and her amnesia is the perfect excuse to lure her back. Boy, are they going to be mad when they see that hipster tattoo on her back.
A current of anti-wealth sentiment runs through The Vow: Leo is sincere because he lives in a funky apartment with guitars on the wall, cares about real music (not the kind you make on computers!) and references Radiohead. Paige’s regression to her pre-Leo self is charted through an increasingly expensive, conservative wardrobe. You can tell she’s turning inauthentic: She colors her hair.
But The Vow gives us no reason to believe these crazy kids won’t overcome their estrangement. Disaster is what makes us human, says Leo, as he talks a lot in voiceover about impact, physical and emotional, and its effects on our lives. “Each of us is the sum total of every moment we have ever experienced,” Leo tells us. Watching The Vow — forgettable if vaguely pleasant entertainment — would seem to disprove that theory.
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill.
Director: Michael Sucsy.
Screenwriters: Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Stuart Sender, Marc Silverstein, Michael Sucsy.
Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Paul Taublieb.
A Screen Gems release. Running time: 104 minutes. An accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity, some language. Opens Friday Feb. 10 at area theaters.