“The Vow” is a movie about amnesia and thus comes with a plethora of requisite amnesia jokes (i.e. “Who’s the president?” “Obama.” “The senator?”), which are one of the few things going for this endearing flop of a chick flick.
Gearing up for Valentine’s Day, “The Vow” follows happily married Chicago couple Paige and Leo, played by box office champions Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. Happily married, that is, until they get in a car accident, and Paige loses all memory of their relationship — a premise that makes for plenty of opportunities for catchy one-liners like, “You figured it out once; you’ll do it again.” Apparently, “The Vow” is based on a true story, but even that fact doesn’t make the film any less stilted and unstimulating.
The supply of inspiration must have been low for the movie’s writers, who seemed to have picked their characters out of a box labeled “Chick Flick Archetypes.” Pre-accident Paige is a self-proclaimed free-spirited vegan chick who makes abstract sculptures and turned down a law career for art school. She and Leo, who owns an old-school recording studio, make the perfect alternative, city-chic couple — she with her messy artist hair and he with his artsily cocked hat. Then Paige forgets five years of her life and reverts to a WASP-y, conservative suburbanite who thinks she’s still in law school and is engaged to a Wall Street schmuck. Suddenly, all the characters from her pre-Leo life come streaming back in, including her equally WASP-y mother and father, blonde sister and trophy-wife friends.
And that’s not all. It seems like every base has been covered in terms of cliched characters. An alternative, eyeliner-wearing female sidekick for Leo who gives great advice and is weirdly invested in the couple’s disintegrating relationship? Check. A slimy ex-fiance for Paige who is attractive but not too attractive, and who, with a turn of his head, looks slightly menacing? Check. Well-meaning parents who try but ultimately don’t get it? Check.
Despite a script that doesn’t do her acting ability justice, McAdams is almost as charming as always. She and Tatum have lukewarm chemistry, but Rachel McAdams can have good chemistry with a chimp. Tatum, on the other hand, despite his physical splendor, has two default facial expressions in his repertoire: confusion and frustration.
It’s easy to see why he would be frustrated, though, considering the whole movie revolves around Leo’s various efforts to re-woo his wife, which are thwarted by a frustrating unwillingness to be wooed on her part. While Paige’s reticence is understandable (in her mind, she’s still engaged to her ex-fiance, Jeremy), the lack of a dramatic payoff during any part of the film doesn’t help with its sluggish pace.
Ultimately, “The Vow” falls flat. There’s one moment in particular, when Leo is describing his recording studio to Paige’s preppy, Lake Forest-dwelling parents, that you know is meant to be tender — the camera pans in on Tatum desperately trying to make his face light up with earnestness, almost stuttering as he’s trying to put into words exactly why he loves his dying gig — but this moment fails to inspire. No, Leo, I still don’t understand why recording live in a studio is so much better than doing it on a computer, but nice try.
With the predictability and cutesy premise of a normal chick flick, but the attempted earnestness of a more serious movie, “The Vow” is left with the appeal of neither, leaving both the date-night moviegoers and more serious cinephiles hoping for more.