I feel bad for anyone who’s named John.
Synopsis: A romantic drama about a soldier who falls for a conservative college student while he’s home on leave. (IMDB)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, and Richard Jenkins
Writer: Jamie Linden
Director: Lasse Hallström
Rating: PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 108mins
Now a few films in, the romance series based on the novels of Nicholas Sparks have nicely filled a niche that have made them highly popular with viewers looking for nonsensical, manipulative tearjerkers. Suffice it to say that the second Sparks offering of 2010, Dear John, is simply more of the same. Not being the target audience, it was difficult to get emotionally invested in the characters or the story. However, it is easy to understand the appeal in retrospect, featuring both Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried before they moved on to bigger, greater things (most greater than this film).
The story here is about a soldier named John (Tatum) and a college student named Savannah (Seyfried) who miraculously fall in love while John is on temporary leave from duty and Savannah is on break. As they went back to their regular lives, they would keep in touch by writing letters to one another. Over time, their lives would obviously become increasingly complicated which would inevitably threaten their relationship. Nothing about this film should come as a surprise whatsoever as it relies on just about every cliche in the book (pun intended) while expecting us to care about its paper-thin characters.
A derivative story full of cliches is one thing but a derivative story full of cliches that is also incredibly dull and needlessly melodramatic is another. There was absolutely no originality to be found here, making it incredibly predictable and uninteresting to watch. John and Savannah’s relationship at no point was believable seeing that they spent more time apart than together. For reasons that will quickly become known while watching the film, both characters weren’t the most likable either. There would be more going on besides John and Savannah, however, it didn’t matter all that much in terms of the plot and only added to what was a long film to begin with.
The mediocre material and uninspired direction did not do the film and favors as far as the acting was concerned. The acting here, for the most part, ranged from bad to uninterested with the weakest link being Tatum as John. While he has arguably improved as an actor, this film was one of his weakest efforts. He simply could not carry the emotional weight of the role, giving an incredibly wooden performance that was laughable at times. Seyfried’s Savannah was a dull character, similar to characters she’s played countless times since this, who arguably tried but she could never overcome the subpar material. Tatum and Seyfried’s lack of chemistry ultimately sealed its fate.
Overall, Dear John is an incredibly dull, derivative, and overlong romance film with a mediocre script and uninspired direction featuring a nonsensical and manipulative non-story comprised almost entirely of cliches with paper-thin and unlikable characters brought to life by questionable acting from Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, but you already knew all of that. If you’re a fan of Nicholas Sparks, you already saw this and if you’re not, just keep avoiding it as it won’t change your mind.