FILM RATING: 3 stars
I just finished watching one of the latest Nicholas Sparks inspired movies, Dear John (2010). Directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, this romantic drama is a mixed bag cinematically (3 stars out of 5). It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not great either. It’s a good flick to watch and be reminded of the better movies that inspired it. I think it was miscast with Tatum in the lead male role. His character John is a sensitive-romantic “nice guy”, but also a hardened patriotic soldier. I just didn’t buy Tatum in this role. He acted the part well…but that’s the problem, it felt like he acted the part instead of being the part. Seyfried is believable in her role as the love-torn Savannah who falls in love with John in just two weeks after meeting him. But I didn’t really feel the chemistry between her and Tatum. Again…I think she had the chemistry with the character of John, but not Tatum. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not just bagging on Channing Tatum, because I do think he is a talented actor, just not meant for this role. Tatum is great in Stop-Loss (2008), another current movie about young soldiers back at home in America.
Dear John was gorgeously shot in South Carolina by Director of Photography Terry Stacey. The lighting in most scenes is soft, sunny and southern. I especially love the scenes of John surfing in the Atlantic Ocean. The production design by Kara Lindstrom feels perfect and right in line with the story, as well as with Nicholas Sparks’ other movies. A wonderful surprise are the supporting roles played by actors Richard Jenkins and Henry Thomas. Jenkins plays John’s father, a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, with perfect sullen monotony. And Thomas plays the father of an autistic child and friend of Savannah. Without these two roles, this movie would have really fallen flat. They lift the movie above being a Lifetime Special-of-the-Week movie, adding some depth and complexity to an otherwise simple love story. Dear John is not at the level of The Notebook (2004) or Nights in Rodanthe (2008), but it’s worth watching on a Saturday night, curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine.