This is a romance of the mushiest kind. It’s so sappy, it should be considered an honorary member of the Nicholas Sparks adaptations club. With that being said, it’s also thoroughly adorable and has two great leads with McAdams and Tatum.
Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Tatum), a very happily married couple, get into an awful car crash. While Leo makes a full recovery, Paige loses her memory of the last five years of her life; the period of time during which she quit law school, abandoned her image obsessed, preppy ways, cut off ties with her family, became an artist and met, fell in love with and married Leo.
She wakes up from her coma to a husband who she doesn’t remember and parents who are overjoyed that she’s forgotten about their dispute. While Paige’s parents try to bring her back to the way of life that she’d rebelled against, Leo tries to help her remember why she’d left all that behind in the first place. Fighting for a wife who doesn’t remember him and is a completely different person than the one he knew, Leo tries to get her to fall in love with him again.
The Vow has a surprise up its sleeve; Tatum’s acting skills finally make an appearance. His comedic turn in 21 Jump Street was a hilarious surprise but The Vow allows him to flex some more dramatic muscles. His character basically boils down to a Prince Charming type guy who believes in soul mates and happily ever after and he actually manages to pull it off.
Instead of simply playing Leo as a live action Disney prince, he injects his character with a heavy amount of sorrow, hurt and bewilderment. Leo is the film’s emotional core and Tatum’s performance is occasionally heartbreaking. McAdams, while as compelling as ever, offers a mishmash of her previous characters. As previously showcased in Midnight in Paris and The Notebook, she has perfected the art of making sympathetic characters out of stuck up snobs.
The film rarely gets unbearably cheesy, setting it apart from your run of the mill Sparks adaptation. It gets mushy, emotional and sappy, but it’s more likely to make you smile than roll your eyes. Leo’s pain and heartbreak combined with Paige’s family’s delight at having their daughter back, gives the film a level of grit that keeps it from becoming overly cloying. However, the secret of the film’s success is the leads, who have great chemistry and manage to pass off some of the cheesiness as bearable.
The Vow is just pure Hollywood in all the best ways. Cute messages written in blueberries, gorgeous bohemian style flats and artist studios, beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes, a happy ending in the snow, and so on. It takes a certain type of temperament to stomach something as unabashedly sentimental and cheesy as this, but, for the right audience, it’s catnip.