Dear John

Release Date: February 5, 2010

Don't hate me because I was in that ABBA movie.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
81/123 David Mumpower Nicholas Sparks must die in order that various fictional characters he has written may live.
146/190 Max Braden Naturally, being a Nicholas Sparks story, it bears a lot of resemblance to The Notebook. And, it's a big downer.

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Boyfriends, get ready to look bad. The man that put you all to shame with 2004’s weeper The Notebook is back. Don’t look so surprised. When Nicholas Sparks, author of Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, and Nights in Rodathne, has a book that begins with the phrase “what does it mean to truly love another?” it’s only a matter of time before it ends up on a movie poster.

Mr. Sparks latest film adaptation that puts females of all ages in its crosshairs is Dear John. In a nutshell, Dear John concerns a soldier, home on leave, who falls for a conservative college student. Geez, Nicholas Sparks why not try writing in your comfort zone? It's set in the present, so there will be no quaint '50s style cars and hairdos (I have no idea if that’s a Nicholas Sparks trademark I just imagine it is), the story contains war, another suitor, a father with aspergers, letters expressing a deep longing (if it’s the present day why don’t they email?) and a sacrifice of some kind that in reality no one would ever in their right mind make. Sorry guys in Nicholas Sparks land, you just don’t measure up.

This time around Channing Tatum will be the dreamboat your girlfriend won’t be able to stop talking about (if you still have a girlfriend). Perhaps not so coincidentally, Tatum is at the same stage in his career as Ryan Gosling was when The Notebook came out. Does this mean an Oscar nomination is in Tatum’s near future? Stranger things have happened (Queen Latifah). Playing opposite him is Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!) as the beautiful but unthreatening ingénue. Rounding out the cast is the always fantastic Richard Jenkins, Friday Night Lights’ Scott Porter and, as the practical yet underwhelming suitor, Henry Thomas - that’s right, Elliot from E.T.

Think the formula is coming together all too perfectly? Wait 'til you hear who’s directing. Mr. Chocolat himself, Lasse Hallstrom. This would have been perfect on its own, but after just watching Paul Rudd describe his perfect evening as watching Chocolat with his girlfriend to a disgusted Jason Segel in I Love You, Man, it’s too good to be true (if you haven’t already seen that yet, do yourself a favor).

Lasse Hallstrom’s career is one of the more frustrating in recent memory. With over a decade of work in his native Sweden including the excellent My Life as a Dog and strong American entries, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Cider House Rules, Hallstrom quickly became a go to guy for Oscar vehicles. But somewhere alone the line, the Miramax mold became a little too firm, particularly with The Shipping News, and Hallstrom slipped from the big time. While he continues to turn out films, they have largely gone unnoticed, though I found The Hoax to be quite enjoyable.

Whether Dear John is just a further descent into over-sentimentalized romances or a much needed commercial success that puts Hallstrom back on the radar will be one of this film’s more intriguing story lines to follow, for those of us not swooning at Tatum’s smoldering gaze.

Look on the bright side, guys. After seeing this you can play the “Well, I went with you to see Dear John” card to convince her to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Oh wait, that has Johnny Depp. Yeah, dude, you’re pretty much screwed. (Tom Macy/BOP)

Vital statistics for Dear John
Main Cast Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Henry Thomas
Supporting Cast Richard Jenkins, Keith Robinson
Director Lasse Hallstrom
Distributor Screen Gems (Sony)
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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