Maybe The Vow is the kind of chick flick that makes you embarrassed to be seen waiting in line for, but at the same time, it deserves props for respecting the genre and delivering its fairly decent goods with style and panache. Cute Chicago couple Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) are happily married and successful in a downtown kind of way—she’s a sculptor, he runs a recording studio, and judging from their surroundings, business is very, very good. Then there’s a car accident, and Paige completely loses her memories of the last five years, or, that is, back to when she was a ditzy law student dating a real tool. “How do you look at the girl you love and tell yourself it’s time to walk away?” muses poor heartbroken Leo, before determining that his best course of action is to make Paige remember why she fell in love with him in the first place.
It’s a tall order, and it’s pure silliness, but Leo’s the kind of true-blue hero the audience can get behind. Tatum has never been noted for his acting chops, but here he is truly appealing, and dare I say, believable. The movie, which was overwritten by four screenwriters, including Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (the duo responsible for last year’s DOA Valentine’s Day), Stuart Sender and Jason Katmis, goes back and forth in time to allow us to piece together just how perfect Paige’s marriage to Leo was—and, therefore, how much he’s got riding on her memories returning. There is some decent romance, and excellent use of the Chicago locations. Overall, however, the movie misses that hint of passion that makes other romances like, say, Four Weddings and a Funeral, so memorable.
McAdams can be appealing (as Irene Adler, say, to Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes) but too often she plays her romantic leads as a series of goofy smiles and a display of dimples. Her Paige zips around, all slender appendages and bobbing head, and we’re supposed to equate this with cuteness and personality. The Vow ably channels the turf of a far superior movie, Random Harvest, not to mention romance novels like Danielle Steel’s The Promise, so that in the end, you’re not terribly disappointed for having had the experience or shelled out the money—this last fact alleviated immensely by Jessica Lange providing the movie’s most memorable moment.