By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
The opening scene of “The Vow” brings us directly to the crux of the matter: The impossibly happily married Paige and Leo are driving on a snowy Chicago night when their car is struck by a truck.
Paige sustains a head injury, and the resulting damage includes amnesia. Not just any amnesia; Paige can remember her childhood and teen years. Everything, it seems, up to the point where she left law school to become a bohemian sculptor and met Leo.
Another man might’ve taken this personally. It does seem a little unfair that Paige recalls her ex-boyfriend with clarity, but doesn’t recognize her husband.
“The Vow” dutifully aligns itself with Leo’s cause, as he steadfastly tries to convince Paige that they’re really in love.
And there you have the movie’s Valentine-timed appeal, along with the casting of Rachel McAdams, tapping into her “Notebook” mode, and Channing Tatum, tapping into whatever it is that Channing Tatum has to tap into (which I think has something to do with him taking his shirt off).
McAdams has sterling instincts, and she makes a lot of the movie bearable, drawing authenticity from Paige’s confusion and anxiety. Then you’ve got Jessica Lange and Sam Neill turning up as her parents, priggish rich folks who quickly want to wrest their daughter away from this uncouth dude who’s now a stranger to her anyway.
Neill plays a judge, and his home is decorated by a large painting of himself in his judge’s robes. No wonder we root for Leo to win his wife back from these lordly people.
That battle might be easier to take if Leo didn’t seem to be wealthy himself; he owns his own recording studio and has one of those movie apartments that we’re supposed to believe is funky and modest but is actually expensive and huge.
But fine, his wife’s got amnesia, we’ll cut him some slack. And while “The Vow” doesn’t create much beyond the expected scenes of love being pledged and rejections being nobly borne, it’s not awful, either.
The most interesting scenes involve Paige’s attraction to her former beau (Scott Speedman), because she appears to be “cheating” on Leo, and we have to get our head around the fact that she doesn’t actually remember her husband. For a few moments, the movie risks its heroine being unsympathetic, a major violation of Hollywood screenwriting law. And then the film returns to the same old, same old, and even Paige’s scars seem to magically disappear.
“The Vow” (2 stars)
A wife (Rachel McAdams) sustains a head injury and can no longer recall the part of her life involving her husband (Channing Tatum). Although much of the movie is standard, with lots of love pledged and rejections nobly borne, at least McAdams brings authenticity to her character’s confusion and anxiety.
Rated: PG-13 for subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.