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Dear John Is Your Typically Awful Melodramatic Romance

Dear John
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Written by Jamie Linden based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Sony, 2010

Hey, some people love melodramatic romances.  And I guess it doesn’t matter what kind of nonsense you have to sit through, as long as the couple’s love seems eternal and special in some way, then all is forgiven.  Welcome to the world of Nicholas Sparks, who specializes in finding loves that should be but can’t for some reason.  Love is wonderful and amazing and it will end up hurting you terribly.

John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is a soldier living in Charleston, South Carolina, pre-9/11.  He impresses the wicked hot Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) with some mad diving skills, saving the purse that is “her life” from a watery death in the treacherous Atlantic, and proving his wang is much larger than hopeful boyfriend Randy’s (Scott Porter).  Also, she’s impressed by how her friend Tim’s (Henry Thomas, yeah, E.T.’s Henry Thomas) autistic son Alan (Braeden Reed) talks to him with no fear at all.  Soon, John is invited to a cookout and before you know it, they’re stargazing and blocking the moon with their thumbs.

A romance is born, and Savannah starts hanging out with John a whole bunch, she seeing his (possibly autistic) father (Richard Jenkins, the best aspect of this movie), who likes to collect interesting coins, and he seeing her volunteer work, and she picking up on the fact that John has had some troubles with getting into fights in the past.  It looks like your everyday romance, but John is called into duty doing some relief work in some remote country.  Their love will endure.  After all, we can’t see what could possibly happ…oh yeah, 9/11.  John only gets a weekend to come back to see Savannah before he ships out to Afghanistan.

While in Afghanistan, letters are written back and forth, until all of the sudden Savannah stops.  Then comes the real “Dear John” letter…she’s moved on, she’s engaged to someone else, and where is your God now?  He decides to make a career out of the military, staying in the Middle East, until he is sent back to the States, where he finds out how things have changed, and has love possibly endured over these years?

The movie is filled with horrible nonsense, like the subject of their first fight.  Savannah makes mention that she thinks John’s dad might have some sort of condition, and John flips out like it’s the most unimaginable insult in the world.  He is so upset that when he is lightly chided by Randy, he ends up punching Randy out and two other dudes on a beach, including the didn’t-ask-for-it Tim.  There is a surprise when John makes it back home that defies all logic.  Not that things like that couldn’t happen, but it’s an all-too-obvious whammy situation, an attempt at a gotcha!

Honestly, this could have been a lot better without the whammy, and focused more on the struggles of keeping love lasting during a long-distance relationship.  The story is so geared towards this surprise and is so sure of its dramatic impact, it doesn’t bother to ask whether it’s a good idea or not.  This manufactured conflict derails what could have been a decent romantic movie.  There are so many other reasons why love fades or why people move on, but this story has to stand out in some way, even if it doesn’t make sense.

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