Dear John, I knew you'd make me cry, but I'm mad that you did
I only used one tissue during "Dear John" because there's only one scene I found emotional enough to warrant it.
I don't like Nicholas Sparks stories because they tend to be so lovey-dovey and perfect and happy ending and annoying. I liked "Dear John" because the part I found to be most important within this novel was not his carbon copy boy-girl love story that is essentially the same in every book. (More on that in The N-H Book Club.)
The beginning of the movie was too forced. John (hunky Channing Tatum) and Savannah (sweet Amanda Seyfried) fall in love instantly. Like, within the first three minutes of the movie. During their first date, a very brief encounter with someone John knew in his past is supposed to convince us that he's the bad boy -- except these actors are either terrible or poorly directed. That night, after they've known each other for 24 hours, Savannah decides she wants to meet John's dad. And she immediately is able to engage in conversation with him and discover what it is that has prevented John from doing so for the past 10 years. Either I don't remember the fast pace from the book, or the writer/director tried to keep too much detail in the adaptation and had to sacrifice in the beginning to keep more in the end -- or a lot from the beginning ended up on the cutting room floor.
The best part about "Dear John" is the strained father-son relationship and John's attempt to mend it when it's too late to matter. The only importance the girl has in all this that is she is able to point out to John why his dad (Richard Jenkins) acts the way he does. After that, I don't care about her part of the story or her relationship with John, and the movie focuses too much on it.
I have so many problems with Savannah, anyway. She gets mad that he wants to re-enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She stops communicating with him for months before writing him a "Dear John" letter. He comes back to visit several years later and she's mad that he's not fighting to win her back. This girl is unbelievably selfish, but she hides it well under the guise of her no-drinking, no-smoking, no-swearing, building-a-house-for-a-family-in-need exterior.
The writers and director couldn't appear to find a climax in the movie because several times it seemed like it was supposed to end but didn't. So instead of having several events lead up to one big moment, the several events led to several moments that gave way to several more moments, but no big plot twist or I-need-a-box-of-tissues events (but, maybe that's because I had already read the book and knew how it was going to turn out).
They seemingly have tried to bill this movie as a sad love story, with soulmates separated by war. But in reality, it's a lonely guy who meets a beautiful girl, whose only importance in his life is that she shows him why his dad is distant and consequently motivates him to understand and salvage the deteriorated relationship that remains between the men. And watching two grown men cry in a hospital because they've finally learned how to say "I love you"? Nothing will tug at your heart more than that.
Roger Ebert gave the film two stars. So did The Associated Press. Mark me down for another two; it's really not worth any more than that.
The official trailer for the movie, from www.dearjohn-movie.com:
-- Cheryl Sadler