The press notes for The Vow offer a window into the extent of Hollywood's cultural amnesia, how forgettable even it finds what were once proclaimed major releases. "Everybody loves a good romance, but hasn't every love story been told by this point in the history of cinema?," these notes wonder, before setting up Michael Sucsy's film as a novel, if not indeed groundbreaking, take on the affairs of the human heart. This would be fine, if The Vow wasn't merely 50 First Dates with the potentially offputting Sandlerness sanded away and a veneer of respectability (as signalled by an "Inspired by True Events" credit) attached to justify all its hooey and hoo-ha. Real-life inspiration, such as it is, comes from the tale of Chicagoan couple Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, here altogether sensibly renamed Paige and Leo, and played by Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum.
He's a recording studio technician and incurable romantic, introduced singing along to Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything for Love" (remember those words); she's an earthy artist type, first seen up to her elbows in clay, who uses terms like "preggers" and delights in winding up the car window when her beloved thoughtfully drops his guts. This pair are the young and impulsive sorts marketing men dream about, crazy-sexy hipsters who get married in an art gallery while a friend in a needless top hat stands nearby, and enjoy their first kiss beneath an Anish Kapoor sculpture. (No-one quite explains how a jock like Trumpin' Tatum has fallen in with this crowd, but there Top Hat and chums are at every stage of what follows, like the looseknit group of individuals traditionally recruited to play wacky flatmates in adverts for potato chips.)
One snowy night, a gritter rear-ends the couple's car and sends Paige flying through the windscreen; she wakes up suffering from acute memory loss, obliging the dogged Leo to woo her all over again, one day, one memory at a time. The best that can be said for The Vow is that it washes over you painlessly enough. There's the usual slaphappy lifestyle nonsense to get through: regular visits to a bijou Portuguese bakery named Cafe Mnemonic (geddit?), a lingering shot of rack upon rack of vinyl LPs you can't really imagine this couple accruing. Yet the film only really hits script problems with the arrival of Paige's rich parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange, slumming), who want to keep their girl a girl, and are appalled that they should only have met Leo at the hospital; it's here the story starts to cheat somewhat, asking us to believe more issues were thrown up during this couple's second courtship than the first, which is just plain screwy. (Among these complications: a grinning Scott Speedman as exactly the kind of successful lawyer called Jeremy a mother might want her daughter to end up with.)
Sucsy gets his leads right, at least. Tatum's dumb-ox sincerity makes a better fit for this role than early-Noughties Sandler, though one scene sticks him with the worst item of knitwear seen on a leading man since Michael Douglas hit the dancefloor in Basic Instinct - and it remains a little hard to take the breakthrough star of G.I. Joe seriously as a champion of analogue recording over digital ("You're not going to get 'The Sun Sessions' on a laptop"). McAdams, whose career has wobbled alarmingly in recent years, does look cute indeed in her Cubs hoodie, and you occasionally catch her trying to wring something more affecting - something that seems less like contrivance, and more like real life - from the broad-brush screenplay. Still, everyone involved has done better work, and you'll have seen better, too; if your lover forces this upon you this Valentine's Day, you have my permission to dump them on the grounds of diminished ambition.
The Vow is in cinemas nationwide.