Labels have a powerful attraction in terms of human nature. Through labeling, we create stereotypes, which then allow us to discriminate, to assess people, situations and ideas in order to make summary judgments that are sometimes difficult to overcome without an open-minded approach.
That’s a long-winded introduction for this Lasse Hallstrom adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel Dear John, which places his usual relationship melodrama against the topical backdrop of wartime service. John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) meet and fall in love quickly despite the fact John’s military status (he decides to re-up after 9/11, which occurs as the lovers begin making plans for the future) and Savannah’s commitment to finish her degree, prompting a long-distance relationship through letters that reaches the inevitable breaking point — over a surprise plot twist guaranteed to tug the heartstrings.
Sparks’ stories are known for such sentimental and soap-lite scripting, but Hallstrom’s take on Dear John marks the first time that, as a critic, I came to understand the pejorative meaning of “chick flick.” As the final scene comes to a close, every single man in the audience will rue the day he ever allowed the love of his life to talk him into seeing this movie. The ending delivers on the worst promises and impulses of weepy tear-jerking movies aimed squarely at women.
Hallstrom has liberally dipped into the schmaltz (The Cider House Rules, The Shipping News), but here he proves that he has no shame. One can only hope that audiences prove to have more discriminating tastes. Grade: D-
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