Movies: Dear John * *
(12A, general release)
Based on a book by bestselling slush merchant Stephen Sparks, Dear John reminds me of 70s melodramas like Love Story and The Way We Were, competently made hack romances that never spoiled the essential sappiness of their 'tragic' stories by making them remotely credible.
Dear John at first seems less fanciful, as a hesitant romance between a young soldier and a girl from a wealthy family is challenged by geopolitical events.
Channing Tatum, a charismatic young hunk who is driven here towards the outer limits of his narrow acting range, plays the John of the title, a rather taciturn fellow who's on leave from US army duty when he meets a young woman on a boardwalk near his Savannah home. Lynn (Amanda Seyfried) is strolling by the sea with friends when she drops her handbag off a pier into the surf. John (it's that kind of film) rushes in to retrieve it, and they strike up a friendship.
Although Amanda's snooty friends do not approve -- John's a soldier, and only poor people fight wars these days -- they fall in love. There's a snag, because John must shortly return to his unit, but he assures her he's in his final year of service, and meanwhile they communicate in a series of passionate, heartfelt letters.
Then, as John is about to finish his final tour, 9/11 happens. He feels compelled to re-enlist, and his job will take him to the world's hot spots and far away from his one true love, who meanwhile is troubled by a new admirer.
Directed by Lasse Hallström, Dear John is fairly decently made, and the combined charm of its handsome stars is just about enough to carry its dreary, drippy story.
Ms Seyfried is becoming a versatile and accomplished performer, but the real treat in this film is provided by the invariably excellent Richard Jenkins, who gives us a lovely, subtle turn as John's painfully shy and possibly autistic father.