Dear John

31 Mar

Title: Dear John
Year: 2010
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer: Jamie Linden, adapting from the Nicholas Sparks novel
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Channing Tatum, Henry Thomas, Scott Porter, Richard Jenkins
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some sensuality and violence
Runtime: 105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 28%

I’m a sucker for Amanda Seyfriend, she’s one of my favorite young actresses, I’m also a sucker for a good romance, and as such a fan of Nicholas Spark’s novels, I’m not, however, a sucker for the film adaptation of his Dear John novel. The bad thing about it is that it relies too much on the framework that worked so well on The Notebook, but because of a performance that I found uneven by Tatum and an all-over-the-place direction from Hallström.

We know how Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations work, they are the ultimate love stories, and the guy actually has some real talent as far crafting love stories, we know that there’ll be tears, tears fueled by the story of two really great characters, and we know once it’s all over there’ll be a bittersweet taste left in our palads.

Channing Tatum is the titular John, John Tyree, an army-man back home for two weeks on leave. Amanda Seyfried, looking every so lovely, is Savannah who’s purse once falls off a pier, John then dives to rescue it, and then they fall in love, though, as I said, John’s time there in South Carolina has an expiration date.

We get to see those two fall in love during the days they are together, we get to meet John’s father, played by Richard Jenkins, who, as Savannah observes, probably has a mild case of autism, something that creates an argument between the lovers. And then we get to the part where John has to leave, he says he’ll back in a year, and then they can resume their love for each other and live happily ever after.

But not so fast, this is a Nicholas Sparks story, if that happened we would close the novel, or in this case leave the theater, with a huge smile on our faces, Sparks always aims for the sadder smile, wet from the tears that have traveled to our lips, and that’s what he gets in this one, because 9/11 happens, and John re-enlists, and then Savannah finds a new love, a really good man, someone who John, who re-enlists yet again, is told about in the letter that gives title to the film, a man who John can accept to take care of the woman he loves.

This isn’t a great Sparks adaptation, it’s really not, but its a solid one that could have been just as good as The Notebook had it had a tighter direction and a better male lead. It may sound like I’m pounding on Tatum a bit too harshly, and maybe I am, he’s really not bad at all, in fact it’s his likability, along with Seyfried’s, that make this one work on the level that it does, but ugh, I don’t know, there’s just something about his performance that sadly didn’t do it for me.

As a stand-alone film maybe this one does work, but as an adaptation I’m not so sure, I’m not in love with adaptations that change the ending of the source material like this one does. But nevertheless as romantic entertainment for you to go see on a date this one works, it provides that sort of heartache you sometimes seek when you go to the movies, you just have to wonder how much better this could have had those two errors I’ve pointed out been adjusted.

Grade: C+


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