Even as a Sappy Romance, Dear John Doesn't Deliver
- Friday, February 05, 2010
DVD Release Date: May 25, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: February 5, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for some sensuality and violence)
Genre: Romance, Drama, Adaptation
Run Time: 105 min.
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Actors: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona, Cullen Moss, Gavin McCulley, Jose Lucena Jr., Braeden Reed, Luke Benward
If you've read any of Nicholas Sparks' tear-jerking novels or watched the equally swoony, big-screen renditions of The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe or Message in a Bottle, you've already got a pretty good idea of what to expect with Dear John.
Yes, once again, boy meets girl on the Carolina coastline (this time, it's South Carolina rather than North Carolina, so I guess that's a slight change from the norm), and before anyone gets too comfortable, there's a slew of handicaps and hardships blocking the couple's road to lifelong happiness.
Mind you, it's not the formula I necessarily have a problem with (although switching it up might offer that crucial element of surprise to keep the Sparks' faithful guessing, right?), but the story itself. Unlike Sparks' aforementioned work where the romantic connection was far more than the meeting of two genetically superior individuals, the love story in Dear John is ultimately superficial.
Simply put, there's no redemptive, transforming power in this supposed life-altering love that justifies all the excessive heart-tugging. Instead, we've got a regulation spring-break romance that you already know is doomed, no matter how many starry-eyed declarations of being together forever are made.
This time around, the proverbial Romeo and Juliet first set eyes on each other when Savannah's (Amanda Seyfried) purse accidentally falls into the Atlantic. Stressing because "her whole life is in there," a handsome stranger named John (Channing Tatum) promptly comes to her rescue by diving in and retrieving it.
Since they're both relatively easy on the eyes, it's not difficult imagining why the initial attraction would be there. It's the whole we-fell-in-love-for-ever-and-ever-in-just-two-weeks part that's a bit more of a stretch. It's not that people aren't capable of finding—or falling head over heels for—their soulmate in a short period of time, it's just that we don't know what the driving force is behind John and Savannah's love.
Is it because he's a rebel and she's the requisite good girl—the whole opposites attract mystique? Or perhaps, it's because it's not easy finding an attractive girl willing to stick around even when you're a soldier deployed for a year? But for whatever reason John and Savannah can't live without each other and are committing to a long-term relationship when regular dates aren't possible, we're never sure why they are so crazy about each other. Sure, they talk a good game, but it's not convincing.
Part of that is a sheer lack of chemistry between the two leads. The oh-so-brooding Tatum, who usually opts for action movie roles (see G.I. Joe and Stop-Loss) basically grunts his way through his lines and looks pretty uncomfortable for the duration. Meanwhile, Seyfried does the best with what's she's got—plenty of hair twirling, a pretty smile and longing looks at Tatum's character, but still, there's no spark.
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