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So much hype about the 16-magazine-worthy hunkiness of actor Channing Tatum.  Tatum, buzzed about as one of Hollywoodís hot young things since his breakout turn in 2006ís Step Up, is clearly not a bad looking feller but didnít really strike me as very much more.  That hype attempts to validate itself in Tatumís first foray as a romantic leading man with Dear John.  Too bad even his insistent attractiveness cannot elevate the film past Harlequin romance schmaltz.

Directed by Lasse HallstrŲm (- who knows a thing or two about casting stunning male stars e.g.: Johnny Depp in 2000ís Chocolate and Heath Ledger in 2005ís Casanova) this adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel is surely meant to grasp the same viewers who devoured 2004ís The Notebook, another Sparks story.  John Tyreeís leave from the Army is spent back at his old beachside stomping grounds, surfing, turning golden brown and keeping to himself.  Little does John know that his impulsive aid to a fetching blonde damsel in distress will result in far more than a run-of-the-mill summer romance.  A pampered girl from the right side of the tracks, Savannahís interest in the handsome, quiet soldier goes deeper than their obvious physical attraction.  The thoughtful, curious girl breaks through Johnís defenses and quickly becomes part of his shut down world, even caring for his autistic father, who gives Savannah a direction for her life.  The life Savannah pictures is one with John, who only has another year to serve and the pair pledge to write to each other as frequently as possible until they can be together once more, when a terrorist attack on the United States forces John to reconsider his time in the military and his promises to Savannah.

Boy meets Girl.  Boy falls in love with Girl.  Boy loses Girl.  Will Boy ever get Girl back?  The start of Dear John is achingly dreamy and romance-drenched and there is evident chemistry between the brooding Tatum and the sylphlike Amanda Seyfried, making it easy for Dear Johnís audience to get swept away by how adorable this couple is.  We want them to make it despite their forthcoming travails.  However, if the course of true love ran smooth, we wouldnít have much of a movie, so here come the World Trade Center bombings and its aftermath as experienced by John, a Special Forces sergeant facing danger and death around every corner.  The only things keeping John together are the missives from Savannah which serve as much as therapy and confessional for him as maintaining a connection to his far away love.  Perhaps itís too much for Savannah to deal with and too much for the audience as Dear John suffers badly from unfortunate pacing, many maudlin subplots and an unfortunate plummet into cheesy schmaltz that kills the potential the film shows early on.  

The Notebook, this ainít; not that Dear John doesnít try its hardest to match the film that single-handledly shot the stock of Kleenex overnight with all sorts of attempts at tear-jerking moments that never work.  For as winning a character as bright, sweet Savannah seems early on, she is lost in the shuffle of time as the concentration of the film follows Johnís wartime service.  Thus, weíre left with a hollow shell of the adorable girl we from the movieís beginning, the replacement being vastly unlikable and given to inexplicable actions.  There are so many lucky coincidences that work in favour of the star-crossed couple that Dear John begins to feel like some B-movie romance from the 1930ís, where no matter what occurs in the interim, everything must work out for the golden couple, even if it means the permanent removal of some inconvenient characters.  Cloyingly, even these are seen as more fodder for their tortured romance.  Oy.  With its endearing stars and a director who has proven he knows how to frame a romance, Dear John starts off promisingly, then just falls to pieces by the second act, devolving into a saccharine Lifetime for Women TV-movie.  Despite how beautifully and lovingly Tatum and Seyfried are captured by director HallstrŲmís lens, Dear John is not worth seeing until it actually plays on that cable channel.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

February 5th, 2010

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Screen Gems/Sony Pictures)

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