DEAR JOHN (12A) DIRECTED BY: LASSE HALSTRÖM STARRING: AMANDA SEYFRIED, CHANNING TATUM, HENRY THOMAS * *
THOUGH director Lasse Halstrm has a tendency to pour on the schmaltz, he takes an egregious misstep here by attempting to wrangle this latest Nicholas Sparks tearjerker on to the big screen. The Notebook author's fondness for bland, old-fashioned romantic tragedy makes for fairly torturous viewing, especially when the plot uses 9/11, Iraq, terminal illness and autism to conveniently allow our characters to bathe in the glow of sainthood.
Those characters are altruistic rich girl Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) and Special Forces soldier John (Channing Tatum), clean-cut young lovers who fall head-over-heels the summer before the Twin Towers come down, a tragic event that conspires to keep them apart as John's sense of duty and patriotism means he keeps re-enlisting, forcing their epistolary romance to become more permanent than either would like. Lots of letter-writing montages follow as the film builds up to the sending of titular break-up letter, at which point Halstrm becomes even more of a prisoner to Sparks' horribly melodramatic plotting, which prettifies heartache and hardship to the point where it barely has any meaning at all.