Dave White
Dear John Review

Dave's Rating:

3.0

The Notebook. With stamps.

Who's In It: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas

The Basics: Too-good-to-be-true Army boy meets too-gooder-to-be-true blonde girl and a whirlwind romance spins them round like a sappy record. Two weeks of swooning leads to an extremely long-distance courtship thanks to 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. To stay connected they write letters back and forth, but nothing goes exactly as planned over the next eight years. Your own plans should include an absolute willingness to buy into a story with more tragedy, heartbreak and medical incident than most people usually have to experience in a lifetime, much less a decade. Another plan you might make is bringing something to blow your nose on.

What's The Deal: Imagine you're baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And those cookies are made of crying. And it takes two hours to make them. And every minute that passes you can smell them getting chocolatey-er and chocolatey-er and sadder and sadder. And you're dreading the moment when they're done but also sort of perversely happy that you get to eat the whole batch. That's this movie. It's not good for you at all, but it tastes pretty great going down. You could hate it for being cynically tear-jerking, for its relentless agenda of manipulation and for wearing its heart on its sleeve, forehead, back, kneecap and butt. But that would sort of be like hating a dog for licking its own balls. It can't help itself.

Not For People Who Are Overly Sensitive To The Following List Of Emotional Triggers:War, cute people catching bullets, 9/11, The Notebook, pies, Habitat for Humanity, autism, the therapeutic power of equestrian sports, penmanship, strokes, cancer, universal health care, inexplicably glowing blondes, whispery love duets, E.T., and live-action grown-ups referencing lunar patterns and their spiritual meanings that were first explored by animated mice in An American Tail.

Biggest Surprises: That the ending doesn't go exactly where you think it will. I mean, it sort of does, but you have to extrapolate a little to get there. And the scenes that Tatum and Seyfried share (they spend quite a bit of the film apart) are actually pretty moving. Screen chemistry is tough and when you've got young actors who haven't really proven themselves in film outside of things like Step Up and Mamma Mia!, you can be forgiven for expecting the worst when they're supposed to be communicating a once-in-a-lifetime love. But he's admirably sturdy and she's charming, which is really all you want them to be. Lesser surprise: no one thinks to stop Channing Tatum halfway through the movie and teach him a little about Bush administration foreign policy or say, "You know, you should just come home and be an Abercrombie model."

Good News For The Person Who Loses The Coin Toss: And by "The Person" I mean guys who wind up being dragged to this by a female companion. The only other big movie opening this week is From Paris With Love and even if you'd won the toss you'd have still lost.

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