Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Dear John


Review by Mark David Campbell

As long as the term “date movie” and “romantic drama” have been interchangeable, the films that fit that genre are pretty much for the woman’s benefit.  Men take their wives, girlfriends or significant others to them just to show what sweethearts they are, hoping like hell that it’s not the kind of movie that bores them to hell while their dates are busy dabbing their eyes with Kleenex.   I took my wife to see Dear John, and it was a real bonding experience, in a way… we actually both found it equally bad.

Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, who also penned the source material for other recent “date movies” like The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John is more sickly sweet than an explosion at a syrup factory.  Direct Lasse Hallstrom lays the melodrama on so thick, it felt like emotional suffocation.

The film begins with John (Channing Tatum), a soldier on leave, committing the gallant and chivalrous act of diving into the ocean to retrieve a purse accidentally dropped off of a pier by the lovely Savannah (Amanda Seyfried), a college student in North Carolina.  A romance is born.

They relationship develops at a rocket pace, as John is introduced to Savannah’s (wealthy) family, and Savannah to John’s rather eccentric father (played by the always-good Richard Jenkins).  However, John’s leave must eventually end, and the happy couple promise to write each other every day.  But then, the tragedy of 9/11 occurs, and John must decide whether to re-enlist with the rest of his unit or be with his lady fair.  If you understand the significance of the film’s title, you can probably guess how the film ends.  But by then you’re so emotionally numb, you want nothing more than to grab your coat and head back to the car.

Seyfried is a pretty good actress, and I look forward to seeing her in better roles than this.  Jenkins, as I said, is quite good, as you’d expect.  And also as you’d expect, Tatum is a monument to stolid stoicism.  He fills out the uniform very well, though, and for a lot of guys’ dates, that might be enough.  But my wife and I aren’t teenagers any more, and we expect a little big more from our romances.

2 / 5 stars

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