DVD Release Date: May 8, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: February 10, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Run Time: 104 min.
Director: Michael Sucsy
Actors: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange and Sam Neill

The Vow
 
is everything a good love story should be: funny, sweet, charming, and romantic with a capital “R.” In a stroke of perfect timing, this sweetheart of a movie releases just in time for Valentine’s Day. (Heads up, guys: this would be a smart choice for a February 14 date. Trust me on this.)

The eye candy’s not bad, either. Channing Tatum (Haywire) is adorable as Leo, a young husband devoted to his quirky, artist wife. From the moment their eyes meet across a crowded room (at the Chicago Department of Motor Vehicles office, no less) he is determined to woo and win the lovely Paige (Rachel McAdams, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows). And he does. Their perfectly precious wedding—and their deeply personal vows—are sure to prompt contented sighs from female moviegoers of all ages.

Unfortunately for Leo, the couple’s shared history has to be told in flashback. Leo tells us he believes that “moments of impact define who we are” and one of those moments of impact involved a large truck, resulting in a massive brain injury to Paige. She survives but her memory does not . . . not all of it, anyway. Not the part where she left law school to become an artist, moved to the city, and fell in love with Leo.

Naturally, he’s devastated. Things only get worse when Paige’s parents show up. She hasn’t spoken to them in about five years, but she doesn’t remember that, either. Mom and Dad would like to pretend that whole family quarrel thing never happened and sweep Paige back into the suffocating family fold. The suburbs, the country club, a respectable career, and an appropriate male partner are all waiting for her at home. Paige’s life in the city with Leo? With any luck that can all be swept under the rug, too.

Meanwhile, Paige is left with a husband she can’t remember, an ex-fiancé she can’t quite forget, and serious confusion over who she has become. If we lose the moments that make us “us,” then how do we know who we are? It’s as if the buttoned-up, meat-loving lawyer-in-training closed her eyes and opened them a moment later only to look in the mirror and see a bohemian, vegetarian artist with “weird hair.”

McAdams does a good job portraying Paige’s emotional tightrope walk between the girl she remembers being and the one people tell her she’s become. (One style note: seriously, what is up with that awful hair color she sports the last half of the film? Were they trying to make her look bad?) Tatum is the quintessential heartthrob as the charming, compassionate, hopelessly-in-love Leo. Meanwhile, Sam Neill (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole) pretty much phones in his performance as Paige’s controlling father while Jessica Lange (as Paige’s mom) all but steals the show with an emotional scene near the end.

Amnesia stories seem to run in cycles and we’ve seen several in print and on-screen lately, so The Vow could easily have had a “been there, done that” feeling. It doesn’t. The screenplay is loosely based on a true story, which seems to keep it running along just outside the usual “boy meets girl, girl forgets boy, boy gets girl back” track. It’s refreshing to watch a love story that is actually about love—including marriage, even—rather than sexual attraction alone. There is plenty of passion, but it’s tastefully displayed in a way that highlights the romance more than the rumpled sheets.

Is The Vow one of the all-time great movies? Well, no. But it is a delightful romantic comedy that is legitimately sweet with no unpleasant aftertaste. You could do much, much worse this Valentine’s Day—or any day, for that matter.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Wine is served at every meal but breakfast; beer, mixed drinks, and shots served at parties and wedding; no obvious drunkenness.
  • Language/Profanity: Fairly mild for a modern mainstream movie. Sh** by itself and specified as bullsh**, he**, “God” used alone and with da**, man referred to as a di**, conversation about a fart.
  • Sex/Nudity: Wife mentions “getting preggers in a car.” Tastefully filmed kissing and foreplay, no “in the act” scenes. Unclothed married couple shown in bed together, bare backs shown (male and female); one view of a male backside. Unmarried female given a negligee and condom as a gift “for later”; girl invited to move in with boyfriend (and apparently his male roommates). She sees him naked (we don’t) and he says “It’s not like you haven’t seen it before” referring to genitals. Couple goes swimming in their underwear and horseplay ensues. Reference to a marital affair.
  • Violence: Car crash with slow-motion head injury and body thrown through windshield; punch (richly deserved) thrown at a party.
  • Spiritual Themes: Forgiveness, the importance of family, and unselfish love. Reference made to burning a ‘smudge stick’ to drive out bad energy; it’s noted that the stick is apparently made of old lettuce but did do the trick.