Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried in 'Dear John'Yet another adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel ('The Notebook,' 'A Walk to Remember,' 'Nights in Rodanthe'), 'Dear John' is, like two of its predecessors, a romance about young love beleaguered by complications.

The film, directed by Lasse Hallström ('The Cider House Rules,' 'Chocolat'), details the relationship between Special Forces soldier John (Channing Tatum) and college student Savannah (Amanda Seyfried), who meet in 2001 during his leave and her spring break. He plans to leave the service when his tour ends to be with her, but after the World Trade Center attacks, he feels duty bound to reenlist. The two exchange letters over the years as additional hurdles arise.

Other characters include John's emotionally withdrawn father (Richard Jenkins) and Savannah's friend (Henry Thomas), whose son is autistic, but the movie's mainly about the lovelorn duo.

In general, critics are not completely smitten with 'Dear John,' citing predictability and blandness among other drawbacks, though many agree that it is, at least, heartfelt. Here's a sampling of what they had to say: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried in 'Dear John'Yet another adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel ('The Notebook,' 'A Walk to Remember,' 'Nights in Rodanthe'), 'Dear John' is, like two of its predecessors, a romance about young love beleaguered by complications.

The film, directed by Lasse Hallström ('The Cider House Rules,' 'Chocolat'), details the relationship between Special Forces soldier John (Channing Tatum) and college student Savannah (Amanda Seyfried), who meet in 2001 during his leave and her spring break. He plans to leave the service when his tour ends to be with her, but after the World Trade Center attacks, he feels duty bound to reenlist. The two exchange letters over the years as additional hurdles arise.

Other characters include John's emotionally withdrawn father (Richard Jenkins) and Savannah's friend (Henry Thomas), whose son is autistic, but the movie's mainly about the lovelorn duo.

In general, critics are not completely smitten with 'Dear John,' citing predictability and blandness among other drawbacks, though many agree that it is, at least, heartfelt. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:

The Hollywood Reporter: "'Dear John' does center on a Dear John letter, but it takes a few unexpected paths. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that the film, while heartfelt and directed by multiple-Oscar nominee Lasse Hallstrom, is dramatically stillborn ... Bottom Line: A lame romance coupled with more handicaps and hardships than any film can survive without the charge of audience manipulation."

Variety: "Novelist Nicholas Sparks' formula of life-altering love -- invariably faced with some grand, operatic impediment -- receives the youth-edition treatment in 'Dear John,' an almost painfully earnest romance that throws the Sept. 11 terror attacks between its Romeo and Juliet. Mostly, the movie provides ample opportunity to admire Channing Tatum's broad shoulders and Amanda Seyfried's incandescent smile, but the narrative device that keeps them connected while geographically apart doesn't work especially well onscreen."

'Dear John' trailer

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Roger Ebert: "Lasse Hallstrom's 'Dear John' tells the heartbreaking story of two lovely young people who fail to find happiness together because they're trapped in an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Their romance leads to bittersweet loss that's so softened by the sweet characters that it feels like triumph. If a Sparks story ended in happiness, the characters might be disappointed. They seem to have their noble, resigned dialogue already written."

Boston Phoenix: "At one point, John announces: 'We're sitting here . . . and we're talking, but nobody's actually saying anything.' Why, John, I thought you'd never notice. That said, at least we get a few howlers amid all the gushy verbal pabulum. My favorite comes in the opening scene, where our hero compares himself to a coin whose 'ridges have been rimmed and beveled.' Ugh. Still, unintentional comedy alone is not enough to stem the tide of tedium here, and by the 60-minute mark, you'll be more than ready to stamp 'Dear John' 'Return to sender.'"

Arizona Republic
: "John and Savannah fall for each other so quickly that we don't really know that much about them; character development is not exactly at a premium here. A troubled past is hinted at for John, while Savannah seems too good to be true. But that's just the impression we get. Nothing is really spelled out to confirm it. 'Dear John' takes emotional shortcuts at seemingly every turn. Tatum is stoic pretty much throughout. Seyfried is allowed to stretch a little more, though not much. But she's engaging enough that you want to see her in a more complex role, a movie in which she's allowed to challenge herself. Alas, 'Dear John' isn't it."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Based on a book by Nicholas Sparks ('The Notebook') and set mostly in the post-9/11 world, 'Dear John' plays well enough while you're watching it. It's only after the lights go up that you realize how shamelessly manipulative it is. Working from a screenplay by Jamie Linden, director Lasse Hallstrom ('What's Eating Gilbert Grape') delivers a film that has its moments but comes across as far more formulaic than it needs to be."

Miami Herald: "We'd like to believe people behave in such totally unselfish ways, but such goodness and charity leave director Lasse Hallstrom ('The Shipping News,' 'Chocolat,' 'The Cider House Rules') without many shades of gray in his melodramatic palate. Worse, he makes the colossal mistake of shortchanging the diehard romantics by wrapping up the story too suddenly; you literally feel startled when the credits roll. Still, there's an audience for old-fashioned romance, and 'Dear John' will please most of it, given its attractive cast, cozy beach settings and brazenly uplifting outlook on human nature. The movie looks good. It just doesn't bear much resemblance to the way most of us live."

Austin Chronicle: "This is a muzzy picture through and through, from Hallström's softy direction (who brings to the scenes of John seeing action in Afghanistan and Iraq all the heart-pounding excitement you would expect from the guy who directed 'Chocolat') and Jamie Linden's humorless script and slurry plotting to Tatum's portrayal of John. He is meant to be brooding, I think, but Tatum's vague features read more 'meathead' than anguished young lover. He has to carry the film, but he's the least interesting thing going on here."

Will you see 'Dear John' despite its lukewarm reviews?
Yes333 (83.9%)
No64 (16.1%)
CATEGORIES Reviews