Once upon a time, two sweet lovers, Paige and Leo (Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum) vowed that they would love each other through thick or thin, in sickness and in health, and all the other things that your typical wedding ceremony includes. A few years later, they were in a car accident, and she lost all memory of their time together, and of anything in the last half-decade, or possibly even longer. Brain trauma sucks, so now he has to convince her that she loved him, and help her re-discover that love.
Meanwhile, her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) are trying to bring her back home. For reasons she can’t remember, she left home and hasn’t spoken to them in years. But they don’t care about that, just as long as she’s on good terms with them now. She also is back on good terms with ex-fiance Jeremy (Scott Speedman), as she can’t remember why they broke up in the first place. It’s like she’s back in her mid-20s, free from all of the decisions she’s made in the past few years that she can’t ever see herself making. That’s got to feel kind of liberating.
That is, unless you’re in Leo’s role, in which case it would feel awful. He still loves her, but she’s turned into quite the unlikable person. She’s more prone to snapping, she doesn’t even want to look him in the eye, and it’s clear that she still loves Jeremy. But since he made the titular Vow, he’s going to continue to fight for her. If Tatum was a good dramatic actor, this would be a character worth caring about. Unfortunately, he’s not, and as a result, the character comes across as pathetic instead of devoted.
The Vow is a romantic drama, and fails in both aspects. The romance is unbelievable because the two actors have no chemistry and the writing is pretty bad, while the drama fails because one of the two leads isn’t good at this sort of thing, and because the writing is pretty bad. Did I mention the writing? Well, it’s pretty bad. Worse than using “pretty bad” to describe something three times in a row. There are so many cringe-worthy lines and the actors can’t say any of them like they mean them.
There isn’t much of a story, either. With a screenplay this thin, it’s hard to keep your focus on the events on-screen. The two character do things that are frequently unrelated to events that came prior, and often repeat themselves. It’s not quite as repetitive as another memory-based romance, 50 First Dates, but these people continue to say and do the same things that it’s really hard not to check out. And it’s also 104 minutes long, even though there’s maybe an hour’s worth of content.
The Vow also does what a lot of bad movies do when looking for a crutch: It bases its plot on true events. Apparently, there was a couple who actually went through what the characters in this film do. What I take from that is that at one point in time, one person lost his or her memory and that had an impact on his or her family and friends. All of the contrivances have probably been added by the filmmakers; it even says something similar at the end of the credits. But they can use the “it’s real” defense if I want to point out how clichéd it all is if they want.
I can’t think of a point in time where I wasn’t bored. The only parts I enjoyed was when Tatum was trying to be funny, in large part because he can be. He’s a decent comedic actor with his complete lack of genuine emotion and deadpan delivery, and when he tries to be funny here, it works. But this isn’t a rom-com, as it tries to treat its subject matter with more respect than that genre might allow. This doesn’t stop it from being clichéd and unoriginal, though.
The pacing is so slow, the actors don’t seem to care, and nothing adds up to anything of value. I get that I’m not quite in the target audience for a release like this, but I don’t actually see why anyone would enjoy this movie. There’s nothing good about it. I can’t see anyone taking a step back after it ends and thinking “Wow, that sure was a moving and inspiring motion picture.” Okay, so its message is fine, but it doesn’t come across well when you don’t care whatsoever for the people delivering it.
None of the actors — whether due to the lacking script or a lack of talent — make us feel for their characters. Tatum and Speedman both have a complete lack of depth, while McAdams is too much of a jerk to be sympathetic. They’re not complex people, either, driven by a single ambition that’s as simplistic as it is human nature. They’re all just so bland and boring that you hope for the couple to get back together just so that everyone, including yourself, can move on.
The Vow is dull, clichéd, boring, and poorly written. The screenplay is lifeless, the actors are dull, the characters are one-dimensional, and there is nothing in the film worth your time. Actually, there’s a cute cat that’s there for a couple of scenes. He looked like he could use some love. Maybe watch The Vow for the cat. Sadly, it was probably the most convincing acting in the movie. At least I thought that the cat was worth looking at. Cute, cute kitty cat.