‘The Vow’: The Reviews Are In!

While some critics laud Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum's 'genuine chemistry,' others say their characters are underdeveloped.

Based on a highly unscientific poll of friends, family and coworkers, everyone is positive “The Vow” is a Nicholas Sparks movie and remains unconvinced when informed the romance novelist had no involvement in the pre-Valentine’s drama.

The folks at Sony, though, likely aren’t complaining about any confusion. While “The Vow” hasn’t been winning over critics (it’s currently at just 32 percent freshness on Rotten Tomatoes), the film is tracking very well. Box-office prognosticators are eyeing a $30 million-plus opening and Fox, which had slated its own date-night flick, “This Means War,” for a February 14 opening, ended up shifting back the release to avoid competition.

About those “Vow” critics. They haven’t been kind, calling the characters poorly sketched and the film generally a maudlin affair. Other reviews, however, have lauded Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams’ performances, as well as the film’s tonal similarities to Sparks-adapted fare like “The Notebook.” For those critiques and more, read on for a deep dive into “The Vow” reviews.

The Story
“Despite the sweet story — lovely couple, car wreck, brain injury, she forgets him, he loves her anyway — and the beautiful scenery — cool converted warehouse spaces, snowy Chicago streets, Lake Michigan in the moonlight, and of course Tatum and McAdams — this is a movie that leaves you wanting more. To care more, to cry more, to love more. Inspired by a true story, it begins with a date night at the movies for young marrieds Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Tatum). Then an accident on the way home, capped by a trip to the emergency room that feels like a pale version of ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ changes everything. When Paige wakes up from a medically induced coma, her memory has been wiped clean, and thus starts Leo’s bid to help her remember their life and their love, and when she doesn’t, he tries to get her to fall for him again.” — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

The Performances
“The best thing in the film is McAdams, who moves through her post-amnesia scenes with a plausible mix of good humor and wariness. Her character retains our sympathy even when she’s making other people’s lives difficult, and you can see why Tatum’s Leo clings to her for dear life. He’s well cast as a burly lug who married far above his station. Despite that ‘nobody’s home’ air of his, he projects an uncomplicated decency, and you feel for him when McAdams’ disapproving parents (the underutilized Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) show him no love.” — Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Nicholas Sparks Comparison
“You root for McAdams and Tatum because they show some genuine chemistry together; you sense that these two are better with each other than apart. The screenplay, though, pulls things into gooey Nicholas Sparks territory (familiar turf for McAdams, who starred in the film of Sparks’ novel, ‘The Notebook’). … All of these people seem like lazy sketches rather than developed characters; it’s tempting to wonder how moving ‘The Vow’ might have been if they’d been allowed to breathe and live.” — Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

The Valentine’s Day Reality
“Arriving for Valentine’s Day weekend, ‘The Vow’ is a cinematic box of candy wrapped in bright red cellophane. Like any box of chocolates, you have to bite a lot of bad centers to get to the few good ones. … Unfortunately, most of the movie focuses on Leo’s much less challenging point of view as the hurt and forgotten lover. This includes an absurdly unnecessary narration by Leo filled with gibberish about moments of ‘impact.’ Eventually the film works its way to what is more intriguing: how disorienting and painful it is for Paige to wake up in a completely different personality and world.” — Louis B. Parks, San Francisco Chronicle

The Bottom Line
” ‘The Vow’ is the rare chick flick that’s about brain trauma in addition to being a cause of it. It’s what you might get if the eminent neurologist-author Oliver Sacks tried his hand at a True Romance comic, and, as such, it’s quite watchable date-night cheese — the kind of movie you can simultaneously snort at and enjoy.” — Ty Burr, Boston Globe

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