Movie Review: “Dear John”
IN the interest of full disclosure I am going to come right out and say I had about zero interest in seeing this film. Thus you are going to ask your self, well then why did you see it? It’s quite simple really. My sister wanted to see this flick really bad. How bad? Let’s see…like I’m a geek that lives in my parents basement camping out for Star Wars Episode 1…three months in advance bad. Since I can pull these things I thought I would do what a cool/good brother does and take her to see it. Okay done patting myself on the back, onward with the review.
So what did I get myself into? I figured it couldn’t be THAT bad. Well, I am here to say it more or less is. Dear John is one of those films that essentially tells you everything you need to know in the trailer. It’s either your thing or it isn’t. It’s a typically super sappy love story that makes you feel as if you have been climbing around a birch tree full of sap for its full 105 minute run time. Don’t worry however, if you take a girly girl with you the sap may be washed away from all the tears that will flow forth countless times during the film. Be sure to wear an absorbent shirt or bring the pocket/travel size tissue pack.
The titular John, played by one-time male stripper Channing Tatum, doesn’t do anything here to make you change your mind about him. He almost feels typecast. This is the third time he has played a member of the army. The previous two were last summers G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and Stop-Loss (2008) There just wasn’t anything fun about his character; he plays the guy with the shadowy/dark/edgy past. Some of his lines fell flat for me and from scene to scene he has a mysteriously vanishing fu manchu type of thing that is there and then gone just as quickly. There will probably be a few ladies that enjoy the fact that he spends a just-shy-of-being-annoying time half naked on screen.
Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) is the love interest that writes all the “Dear John” letters. Seyfried is building up a pretty decent body of work, though I really don’t have too much to say about her performance. I didn’t even recognize her as the same person who was in Jennifer’s Body last year, thus she has some pretty good range.
The surprise in this film for me was Richard Jenkins. Jenkins is one of those actors your have seen in seemingly a hundred films. The guy has some major range. He can seemingly handle any role that comes his way. Here he plays John’s coin collecting father suffering from Autism incredibly well.
Oh yeah did I mention? Characters and events were changed in the film pretty heavily in some instances. In the book, John’s father had Asperger’s, here it’s been swapped out for Autism to keep the film moving and streamline a plot point. Another character had a brother changed to a son. This actually changes the arc of the story quite a bit, based on what I was able to garner about the book on Wikipedia. It also lead to several moments in the film that had me to asking, ”Who lets a 10 year old kid with Autism go wondering about unchecked for hours at a time?”
Another thing that threw me off is that the film spans about six years or so of time. It starts off before the events of September 11, 2001. However, it never states this. It kept me scratching my head about some of the fashions and cars while watching the film. When September 11 arrives, (which turns into a pretty pivotal plot point for the paths our young lovers take) it is abundantly clear what day it is and what is taking place. They go ahead and cart out the WTC news footage anyway. Every time I see this footage it just felt unnecessary, then again, I guess when some one discovers this gem in about ten years they may not know what is going on just based on peoples reactions. I would actually like to congratulate the film makers on making it obvious it was September 11 with out showing the footage only to do it at the last minute in the event that some one brain dead seeing the film may not have noticed what was going on.
In the end this film has a built in audience. If your a fan of the book you will enjoy it. If you are a hopeless romantic, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you don’t fall in to either of these categories you had best steer clear.