For as many times as I've admitted in my reviews that I enjoy good chick flicks, I'm sure many of you are calling B.S. on me for my recent string of negative romance reviews. It's not my fault that almost all the releases that I've reviewed up until now are bad – and 'The Vow' is definitely worth lumping in with "the bad." Sorry, folks – I haven't given a chick flick a positive review since 'Serendipity,' and 'The Vow' isn't going to be the first since then.
The idea behind 'The Vow' is actually pretty good. A young married couple is in a horrific car accident that throws the wife through the windshield. After her brain swelling goes down, she is brought out of her induced coma and the husband is shattered to learn that she has a selective type of amnesia that makes her believe she's living five years in the past. Her mind has erased him and everything else that happened in that five-year gap. Now, the only hope he has is to make her fall in love with him all over again.
Had that alone been the plot of the movie, then it wouldn't be half bad. If I saw a trailer for that movie, I'd actually be inclined to see it – even without a nudge from Mrs. Hickman – but that's not the movie we get.
After we watch the devastating car accident in the intro, Channing Tatum's random voice-over narration kicks in. He explains how each of our lives is defined by huge moments of impact that forever change us. At that moment, we believe that he's explaining his theory because of the car accident, but we later learn that this narration is also given for another purpose. The reason that his wife, played by Rachel McAdams, is suffering from this odd type of amnesia is because of other moments of impact that happened in those missing five years. Instead of focusing on a husband trying to earn the love of his changed wife, we spend the whole movie trying to discover what those other moments of impact were. When it starts to wind down, it's frustrating to learn that the husband actually knew all along and that we, the audience, were kept in the dark. I can imagine that the filmmakers would retort, "That's because we want you, the audience, to know how she feels. Everyone knows everything about her, except for her." Wrong. That's called "wool over the eyes" and it's a cop-out.
Even though I make this complaint in a fashion that might lead you to believe it's something that I'm up-in-arms about, know that nothing in this movie is worthy of thought or consideration. If you see it, you'll forget about it ten minutes later. Had there been any content in it that made it actually likeable, then you might argue that the whole movie was good except for the ending – but that's not the case. Out of all the directions that 'The Vow' could have gone, it takes the worst possible route. I deem it a "you could have done much better than this" lazy screenplay. The story removes the emphasis from the couple's relationship and places it on that of her family. All of a sudden, the movie isn't about "them," it's about her and her hoity-toity family.
Of all the flaws in 'The Vow,' the worst is the characterization. Tatum and McAdams play this pretentious beatnik hipster couple who feed one another fine chocolates while drinking expensive wine. She creates art for big buyers and he owns one of the last remaining non-digital recording studios because he loves the original form of the art and believes that digital will never sound as good. The two get married in an upscale Chicago art museum with only their hipster friends in attendance. The wedding ceremony is non-traditional, after which the wedding party is chased off the property by security guards for not having permission to be there. Not to mention, they're married by a friend who may or may not have the legal power to marry them. As if this pretentiousness wasn't bad enough, when McAdams reverts to the five-years-younger version of herself, she turns into a valley girl who drinks blueberry mojitos and hangs out with her girlfriends in uptown bars. Along with the frat girl version of herself comes a selfish and bitchy attitude that isn't likeable in the slightest. She is in no way, shape or form, the same person that she was before. Now, had Tatum's character decided to help trigger memories, that would be one thing – but what he works towards is trying get this new unlikeable girl who looks like his wife, but isn't his wife, to fall in love with him.
When you learn that 'The Vow' is "inspired by real events, you're going to call me a heartless punk, but know that 'The Vow' is so loosely based on the real events that the real-life couple is only named once on the whole Blu-ray – and even then their names are only revealed in the commentary. What is it that's taken from their story and placed in 'The Vow?' A married couple with kids is in a car accident, the mom suffers brain injury and cannot remember her husband or her own children. At the end of the credits, we're shown a picture of this family and told she never regained her memory of those missing years. That's it. There weren't any moments of impact. No hipster wedding. No fine chocolates and wine. No blueberry mojitos. None of that. The gist of the story is it. No matter what happened to the real couple, their story has to be better than the contrived one told in 'The Vow.' I'm not going to spoil the climax to you, but know that it's laughably bad, not a climax at all.
Ladies, I know that I'm a man and that I'm never going to understand why you like the things that you do, but please don't ask/make us men watch this one with you. We hate it. Save this for a "girl's night in" while we guys go out and see 'The Avengers' for a fifth time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony has placed 'The Vow' on a Region A/B/C BD-50 in combo pack that includes a DVD copy of the film and an Ultraviolet code in a blue two-disc vortex keepcase. The included flimsy cardboard slipcase features two annoying stickers for Ultraviolet (as if the Ultraviolet branding on the top of the slipcase wasn't enough) and another that lets you know that you'll get five free song downloads with the purchase of this Blu-ray. Cutesy images are printed on the back of the cover art sheet and are visible through the keepcase. A bunch of skippable features play before the main menu, including a Sony vanity reel, a Blu-ray vanity reel and trailers for 'Salmon Fishing on the Yemen,' 'Tonight You're Mine' and 'The Artist.'
'The Vow' has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Aside from one unexpected flaw, it's another good-looking new title on Blu-ray.
Cleanliness, sharpness and detail are not issues. The image is always crisp and clear. The smallest details – like individual gently-falling snow flakes, facial pores, fine body hairs and tiny shards of slow motion windshield glass – are always visible. Colors are lifelike and naturally saturated. Black levels are decent, but could be better. Blacks can, at times, fall on the overpowering side.
Of the possible compression issues, a couple of minor instances of aliasing are the only noticeable flaws. Without the application of DNR, the video is noise-free. Bands and artifacts are also absent. But the odd flaw is the use of edge enhancement in a few scenes. Close-ups of our central characters' faces reveal the offsetting and unnatural look of edge enhancement. Keep in mind, there are less than a handful of scenes that employ it.
Much like the video quality, the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track of 'The Vow' is good, but could have been better.
The audio feels like it was done as quickly as possible without losing much integrity. It features some greatness, but never shines as much as it should. The first thing I noticed were great-sounding effects. When an interior shot from the back seat of a frozen car shows Tatum hop in and slam his door, the sound of the door slamming shut in the frosty air sounded too much like the real thing. Many of the effects are just as impressive, but their mixing leans toward the lazy side. Establishing shots of cars driving off and on the screen may feature imaging, but within the main scenes we may not have any instances of imaging at all although the opportunities are there. Too often these great effects fall flat, primarily coming from the front channels.
While the integrity of great-sounding music is supposed to be a pert of our characters' lives, the music also falls victim to a lack of dynamics by coming mostly from the front channels, occasionally from the surrounds and rarely from the rears. The one nice thing about the music and scoring is the strong use of bass and the subwoofer.
The opening voice-over is centered, clear, and one hundred percent audible – despite Tatum having the tendency to slur words together like Rocky Balboa after a major fight. When we get out of the voice-over, it becomes apparent that the majority of the dialog comes from the front. Very little comes from other channels. During dialog-only, music- and effects-less scenes, the lack of dynamics really makes itself noticeable.
I consider 'The Vow' the 'Happening' of romantic films. Both have stories with great potential, but both take them down the most contrived and unsatisfying roads. Everything about them could have be done better. With 'The Vow,' the characters are bad, they lack motivations and rationale. The story gives more emphasis to the wife's family than it does her own husband. McAdams and Tatum are both decent, but they either need to find better material, or leave this genre behind. The video and audio qualities are both good, but could have been done better. The special features are just fine for a romance, but the Blu-ray exclusive features are nothing more than rehashes of the same interviews over and over and over again. It's understandable why those who love romance flicks will enjoy 'The Vow,' but those who don't enjoy the genre will roll their eyes. A swing and a miss.