This is awkward. I’m not sure how to begin. Perhaps I should just come right out and say it. Hello. My name is Sean. And I think Channing Tatum has turned into a decent actor.
I know, I know. I hardly believe it, myself. But between Haywire and The Eagle, I’ve made it through two of Tatum’s latest features without wincing at his wooden line readings and cringing at an array of blank-slate reaction shots. The dude actually made me chuckle in Ron Howard’s The Dilemma. (He scored more laughs than reported mainstream comedians Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, after all.) And now that I’ve seen Michael Sucsy’s admittedly sappy The Vow, I can honestly say I didn’t just tolerate Tatum’s performance … I flat-out enjoyed it.
It wasn’t always this way. My first thought after seeing The Vow trailer was, “Oh man, Rachel McAdams has to do Channing Tatum movies now? How badly did Morning Glory tank?”
And while it’s true that McAdams’ starring vehicle underperformed, I was missing the point. The beautiful Wedding Crashers star hadn’t tumbled. Tatum, instead, has risen to the point where he gets to do McAdams movies. And it’s time we all stopped hating and started paying attention to a vastly improving talent.
Now, Tatum’s not Ryan Gosling (The Notebook). He’s not even Eric Bana (The Time Traveler’s Wife). But he also isn’t the emotionless chunk of cinderblock that weighed down early projects like Havoc, G.I. Joe and Stop-Loss.
Tatum’s not classically trained. He doesn’t come from a performance family. He started his career as a male stripper and a model before breaking into acting … and that lack of experience showed. But it’s safe to say he has been learning from his assorted collaborations with gifted directors. In addition to Howard, Tatum studied under Michael Mann (for Public Enemies) and Steven Soderbergh (for Haywire). He isn’t cruising on his good looks. He’s improving from film to film.
Leo, his character in The Vow, might be his most complex yet, and Tatum handles the movie’s mood shifts in stride. Based on true events, the film follows a newlywed couple who encounter obstacles after she (McAdams) suffers a brain injury and experiences a short-term memory loss that wipes away her recollection of the time they spent together.
As the patient spouse, Tatum has to play frustrated, enamored, short-tempered, amused, and defeated. He’s better at some than others, it’s true, but he rarely looks lost on screen here. In a heated confrontation with McAdams, Tatum screams, “I’m not your punching bag.” I kind of imagined him aiming that delivery at critics – myself included -- who’ve spilled a ton of ink kicking this young actor around.
Well, not any more. I’ve seen enough from Tatum to shift my allegiance from “beleaguered skeptic” to “true believer.” From what I hear, Tatum also has another hit on his hands in the comedic 21 Jump Street, which will open this year’s South By Southwest Film Festival before reaching theaters on March 16.
So Tatum has turned a corner. And if you’re ready to recognize his abilities, I’m driving the C-Tate bandwagon, which currently has plenty of seats.