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REVIEW: Dear John March 30, 2010

Posted by Patrick in Cinematics.
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There’s a metaphor that runs through Dear John about how soldiers in the US military are like coins. (Bear with me) They are churned out every day, and expected to be perfectly minted. The ones with imperfections are thrown away, but some, known as ‘mules’, get through and are circulated. While there’s lots to like about Dear John, you can’t help but feel that if The Notebook is a shiny penny, Dear John is a bit of a mule.

Tragic Nicholas Sparks love stories are ten-a-penny these days, so if you’re not a hopelessly romantic teenage girl who loved The Notebook, you can forgive yourself for not wetting yourself with excitement about the author’s latest adaptation, Dear John.

Of course, Dear John tells the story of two star-cross’d lovers, this time two teenagers who meet by the beach and, in the course of two weeks, fall in love. But, he’s only on leave from the military for those two weeks, so there’s tearful goodbyes and the end of their fortnight together. That’s all fine, as he’s only going for a year and they plan to write letters to each other the whole time. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t all go to plan, and after 9/11, the couple face a much longer separation.

The two leads, the always-charming Amanda Seyfried as Savannah Curtis and Channing Tatum as the eponymous John Tyree, have good chemistry and a believable connection in the film. Seyfried even picks up a guitar and sings at one point, recalling her turn in musical Mamma Mia! Tatum on the other hand, is someone I’ve always thought had quite a limited range, and playing the military guy doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for him. His scenes with his father, played by Richard Jenkins, however show that he can handle heavier material at a push.

There’s a few heavy-handed subplots going on through the film, such as Savannah’s interest in helping those with Autism, which results in a scene early on where Savannah suggests that John’s dad is suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. Despite this cringe-inducing scene, there are some heartbreaking moments in the film relating to John’s dad’s Asperger’s, and the backstory of how he and his father grew apart is well-played by Tatum and Richard Jenkins, who plays Mr. Tyree.

There are some typically sappy moments, like when John tells Savannah the moon is never bigger than her thumb no matter where she is, and where Savannah shows John a house she’s building for a family whose house got destroyed. Of course, the next day they’re working together on the site. Awww.

Ultimately, the film loses steam in the third act and things get a bit messy as unexpected relationships develop and everything gets a bit depressing. There’s a few war scenes thrown in that may keep any guys who are being dragged along by their girlfriends happy, but in the end, you won’t love this one unless you’re a die-hard Notebook fan.

Dear John hits cinemas on 16th April

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