Those idiotic romantic movies that make you want to burn a pack of Hallmark greeting cards are back — a surefire sign that Valentine’s Day fever is officially here. And with it comes the annual rant about why those godforsaken movies are so painfully bad. Unsurprisingly, it has a lot to do with formulaic, beaten-down plotlines and a noticeably lackluster brand of uninspired acting.

The Vow

At Quality 16 and Rave
Screen Gems

You would think “The Vow” — featuring a slightly interesting plotline and directed by a man who managed to squeeze a decent performance out of Drew Barrymore (Michael Sucsy, “Grey Gardens”) — wouldn’t be that bad. Sadly, that’s not the case. The star-studded drama brings only one question to mind: How in the world does watching a load of crap steam for 104 minutes make two people in a relationship feel closer together?

Sucsy doesn’t waste any of those minutes shoving us into the meat of the story. As Paige (Rachel McAdams, “The Notebook”) and her husband Leo (Channing Tatum, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”) leave a movie theater on a snowy winter night, they’re struck by an impulse to unbuckle their seatbelts and kiss in the middle of the street. A few seconds later, they’re struck again — this time by a large cargo truck that sends Paige flying out of the windshield with severe head trauma.

When Paige regains consciousness in the hospital, it turns out the last five years of her life have been wiped from her memory. She no longer remembers Leo or ever getting married to him. It’s a sad story, based on true events, that has a lot of potential as a script. Unfortunately, that potential is never fully realized by the filmmakers. Instead of a heartbreaking tale anchored by love and reconciliation, we get nonsense about Paige suddenly changing political views and being wooed by an old flame.

There’s nothing special about the two lead performances, but they never manage to slip into the territory of horrible, either. McAdams and Tatum play their parts plainly, almost seeming relieved by the time the credits roll. And to a certain degree, the reason this film fails has nothing to do with bad performances or belabored script gimmicks. It has to do with a director who never manages to maintain an even tone as the film progresses. One minute, we’re supposed to be tearing up about how Paige doesn’t even recall where she met her husband. A few seconds later, we’re being bombarded by stupid jokes meant to lighten the mood. There’s no discernible consistency in the directing, leaving the audience unable to see a clear point or message in the film.

And in all honesty, there probably isn’t a point being made here. At the end of the day, this is nothing more than an attempt at making money off of people going to the movies for Valentine’s Day. And as long as those people keep going, that horrible cycle of mid-February crap will continue to turn in years to come, powered forward by fake tears and phony love.

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