FILM REVIEW: THE VOW

By Michael Phillips 2016-10-23

Tribune Newspapers Critic

2 1/2 stars

Two new products -- and that's what they are -- at the movies this week present packages of nearly identical quality (eh), transcended by their respective top-billed stars who happen also to be excellent, crud-elevating actors. This is an excellent skill to hone if you're both an actor and a star, because a significant portion of most careers is spent elevating crud.

But "The Vow"is agreeable enough. It may be puddin'-headed but it's not soul-crushing. Thirty minutes into the picture, directed with sincere devotion to the concept of true love by Michael Sucsy (HBO's "Grey Gardens"), the largely female audience was audibly, collectively sighing "awwwwwww!" each time the ardent hunk played by Channing Tatum did something romantic, such as arranging the blueberries on his sweetheart's breakfast plate to read MOVE IN? The crowd came out of "The Vow" positively awwww-struck.

Well. At least it has Rachel McAdams. In this Chicago-set romance -- based a wee bit on a true story and written by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Jason Katims -- the formidably skilled and charming alum of "The Notebook" and "The Time Traveler's Wife" plays a newly married School of the Art Institute student and sculptor whose husband, Leo (Tatum), runs a fledgling recording studio. In the dreamiest, least painful slow-motion depiction possible, McAdams' Paige is sent flying through a car windshield after their car gets rear-ended in a snowstorm.

A "moment of impact," we're told by narrator Leo, who favors that metaphor throughout and isn't afraid to state the obvious. ("Each one of us is the sum total of every moment we've ever experienced," he says at another juncture. Yes, and by the way, water is wet and the sun is hot.)

Paige survives but a traumatic brain injury leaves her with clear memories of most of her life -- except the last five years, beginning with the point at which she mysteriously broke ties with her snooty, controlling Lake Forest parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange, both acting as if they'd just buried several bodies in the back yard) and moved into the city to follow her bohemian dreams. Paige retains no recall of meeting or marrying Leo.

Tatum on the other hand acts as if he has no memory of learning his lines. He seems perpetually short of breath in "The Vow," while moving his lips so little when uttering banalities, he might be studying ventriloquism. None of this will matter to those who find Tatum dreamy, of course, and his occasional shirtlessness and pantslessness may well pass for romantic chemistry with McAdams' addled character. But so far, while he's gotten by in supporting roles in "The Dilemma" and, more recently, "Haywire," I don't think he's quite ready for starring roles. McAdams by contrast knows exactly how to play every scene, true or false. She's one of the most active on-screen listeners (without being a scene hog) in contemporary movies, and it's amazing what that does to make an audience believe in any number of gauzy improbabilities.

The hook in "The Vow" is enticing: How might you go about courting your spouse again if your spouse doesn't know you anymore? The script comes from a real-life incident involving a small-town New Mexico couple, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, whose 1993 car accident provided the story inspiration. Interestingly, in a recent interview with the Farmington, N.M., Daily Times, Krickitt Carpenter had this to say about her own situation: "I would love to say that I fell in love with him again because that's what everybody wants to hear. I chose to love him and that was based on obedience to God, not feelings." Yikes. Rewrite! Needless to say, the feelings part is well looked after in "The Vow."

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language).

Running time: 1:44.

Cast: Rachel McAdams (Paige); Channing Tatum (Leo); Jessica Lange (Rita); Sam Neill (Bill).

Credits: Directed by Michael Sucsy; written by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Jason Katims; produced by Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman and Paul Taublieb. A Sony Pictures release.

Back to Movie Details

Movie News

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Michael Pena, left, and Dax Shepard in a scene from, "CHiPS." (Peter Iovino/Warner Bros via AP)
'Beauty and the Beast' dances off with top box-office spotDisney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" has continued enchant audiences even in its second weekend in theaters
The Associated Press1 hour ago
In this Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, photo, Richard Dickson, president and chief operating officer of Mattel Inc., stands for a photo on Mattel's showroom floor at Toy Fair, in New York. Mattel, the maker of Barbie and Hot Wheels, which has live-action films based on those toys in the works, says it wants to find new ways to be on more screens in front of more kids. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Insider Q&A: Mattel's COO talks Barbie movieMattel is looking to the movies
The Associated Press3 hours ago
FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2015 file photo, Spanish actor Antonio Banderas holds his Honorific Goya trophy for his career, at the Goya Film Awards Ceremony in Madrid, Spain. Antonio Banderas says he has recovered from a heart attack that he had in January 2017. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)
Antonio Banderas says he's recovered from a heart attackSpanish film star Antonio Banderas says he has recovered from a heart attack that he had in January
The Associated Press4 hours ago
The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles performs at the Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Memorial Service at The Forest Lawn on Saturday, March 25, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
Reynolds and Fisher honored with humor, music and danceLaughter, music and the tapping of dances reverberated throughout a public memorial to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, which loved ones say is just how the actresses would have wanted it
The Associated Press16 hours ago
FILE - In this May 19, 2014 file photo, Robert Osborne attends the 73rd Annual George Foster Peabody Awards in New York.  Turner Classic Movies will continue memorializing Robert Osborne at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles next month. Festival organizers announced Friday that the eighth annual film festival will be dedicated to the channel’s longtime host, who died on March 6 at age 84.  (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
TCM Classic Film Fest dedicated to late host Robert OsborneTurner Classic Movies will continue memorializing Robert Osborne at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles next month
The Associated Press1 day ago
Movie News