Review by Bob Ignizio
I fully expected to do one of those snarky reviews of THE VOW where I sarcastically ripped it apart, smugly displaying my film critic superiority. Instead I ended up kind of liking it. Sure, the plot is an entirely predictable romantic fantasy, and regardless of what degree it was “inspired” by a true story, it's obvious there has been some tweaking done to mold it into a familiar audience-pleasing shape. But the cast is attractive and likeable, the direction is capable, and the emotions feel genuine. It may not be a great film, but what more do you want from a Valentine's weekend date movie?
THE VOW begins with a young married couple leaving a movie theater one snowy night and getting rear-ended by a salt truck. Recording engineer Leo (Channing Tatum) is wearing his seatbelt and comes out relatively unscathed. Sculptor Paige (Rachel McAdams), however, isn't strapped in and winds up with more serious injuries. Chief among them is some minor brain damage which erases her last five years of memories. That's basically everything that happened from the time she left home to live in Chicago, including her entire relationship with Leo.
When she first comes out of her coma Paige assumes her Leo is her doctor, and is understandably reluctant to go home with a man she doesn't know, marriage license or no. This gives her estranged parents (Sam Neil and Jessica Lange) an opening to not only reconnect with their daughter, but to try and reshape her life. Their plans do not include Leo, who nonetheless continues to try and reconnect with the love of his life. Adding additional drama to the plot are dark family secrets, a jerky ex-fiance for Paige, and the possibility that Leo may lose his business while trying to save his marriage.
Tatum has been in a lot of bad movies, often aimed at the less discriminating youth market, and because of that I think he's gotten a bit of a bad rap. I actually kind of like the guy. He made a respectable action hero in G.I. JOE and FIGHTING, and has a kind of Brendan Fraser quality that allows him to come across as a down to earth everyman in spite of his movie star good looks. This is probably the best thing he's been in, and he's quite good in it. McAdams is very good as well and deserves credit for believably playing a woman trying to come to terms with how different the person she remembers herself to be seemingly was from the person she became and then forgot.
Of course the script contains plenty of cliches and cutesy groaners like naming the cafe where Leo and Paige went on their first date The Mnemonic. Thankfully director Michael Sucsy understands his premise, however factually based, is pretty far fetched and best handled with a light touch. Even the ending, though hardly unexpected, is handled with subtlety and about the closest thing to ambiguity you're likely to find in a mainstream Hollywood romance. In short, THE VOW is pretty good for what it is. 3 out of 4 stars.