Vow, The

Rachel McAdams is nearly a decade into a movie career that started off strong but has never fully come together.

She has done a bit of everything, starting with her breakout films in 2004, the comedy “Mean Girls” and the romance “The Notebook.” The next year, she was in the huge hit “The Wedding Crashers” and held together a memorable little thriller called “Red Eye.”

Since then, she has been in everything from the “Sherlock Holmes” movies (2009 and 2011) to “Midnight in Paris” (2011) but has never become a star in her own right—which she clearly has the strong potential to do. The right part has either not come her way or she has not found it yet.

Will “The Vow” help? This film returns her to “Notebook” territory: she has the lead role in a romance/melodrama aimed at young women and their (possibly reluctant) Valentine’s dates.

Paige (McAdams) loses all memories of the last five years of her life in a freak car accident, which comes right after she suggests to her devoted husband, Leo (Channing Tatum), to try making a baby in the car in a snowstorm. When she wakes up in the hospital, she assumes he is her doctor.

Paige cannot remember one thing about her man. He has instantly become a complete stranger to her—a very attractive, very nice guy but someone she can hardly say that she is in love with. Previously a sculptor, she also has no idea how to sculpt anymore.

This all means that Paige will spend much of the movie looking painfully confused and succumbing to moments of agitated bitchiness for which she will always almost immediately feel tremendously guilty.

Meanwhile, Leo will crash around in the background, distraught at having lost his beloved even though she stands right before him.

All of this is recounted in mumbled, robotic voiceover narration by Leo, who ruminates on the “moments of impact” that make us who we are.

Can McAdams make us care about a story we already basically know by heart? And in the process, can she make a case for more starring roles for herself?

She is unfortunately trapped here in a stale, cliché-ridden screenplay that relies on endless flashbacks and slow stretches of uneventful dialogue by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, and Jason Katims. This screenplay spends way too long going around in circles.

McAdams is also stuck with Tatum, a likable, genial, but bland actor, who does not give her much to work off of. “The Vow” is not going to be her game changer.

This film is weighed down by contrivances like Paige’s uptight parents (the underused Sam Neill and Jessica Lange, looking ancient here), who have been out of the picture for a long time and reenter their daughter’s life only to try and clear out Leo, and Paige’s immature ex-fiancé (Scott Speedman), who will do just about anything to get her back.

There are some seriously misguided sequences, as when Paige gets lost in her own neighborhood, not remembering how to get home. Or how about Leo’s first dinner with Paige’s well-to-do family, where he awkwardly and at length defends his decision to open an old-school recording studio in the age of digital recording?

The film borders on unintentional comedy as the new Paige reverts to the personality of her high school years, about when her memories cease to exist. Her husband watches in abject horror as the vegan he once knew has no problem downing a filet mignon.

Leo finally gets the idea of completely starting over with Paige, taking her on dates as if they had just met. They go skinny-dipping and tour all their old hangouts. But nothing works.

Is there one little magic thing he can say that will awaken his Sleeping Beauty? The single unique thing about “The Vow,” based on a true story, is that the aha moment never arrives.

This is the feature debut for director Michael Sucsy, who previously did “Grey Gardens” for HBO (2009), and “The Vow” indeed feels more like a TV movie than a real movie. McAdams deserves better than this, and so does the audience.

Cast

Paige – Rachel McAdams

Leo – Channing Tatum

Paige’s father – Sam Neill

Jeremy – Scott Speedman

Paige’s mother – Jessica Lange

Gwenn – Jessica McNanee

Credits

A Sony/Screen Gems release.

Directed by Michael Sucsy.

Written by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, and Jason Katims.

Produced by Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman, and Paul Taublieb.

Cinematography, Rogier Stoffers.

Editing, Nancy Richardson.

Original Music, Rachel Portman, Michael Brook.

Running time: 104 minutes.