REVIEW: Old-Fashioned Romance Carries 'Dear John' Over Rough Spots

Many people know what they should expect when they are go to a film adapted from a Nicholas Sparks book. Sparks, the author of such romantic books as “The Notebook” and its sequel “The Wedding,” is a well-known author who has had nearly half a dozen books adapted for the big screen. “Dear John” is his latest and one that delivers a fine sentimental story about young adolescent romance, even though the third act disappoints.

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Dear John” revolves around a romance between its two lead characters, John Tyree (Channing Tatum) and Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried). The two meet when Curtis’ purse falls into the ocean and Tyree promptly delivers it to her. Although another guy (played by "Friday Night Light's" Scott Porter) is interested in Curtis, she falls for Tyree, who is at home for a few weeks before he returns to the Army. The romance develops during the two weeks the couple spends together and soon enough the couple is torn apart when Tyree is sent back overseas. But they send each other love letters to keep their romance alive.

The movie develops from there as Tyree is forced to make choices about whether he wants to re-enlist after the September 11the attacks. Curtis is forced to make choices about her own life, as well. This may sound like a romantic movie with nothing else to offer, however there are some strong elements that elevate it beyond a simplistic romance.

The movie has a nice father-son relationship between Tyree and his father (played by Richard Jenkins), that's even stronger than the Tyree-Curtis romance. In his role, Jenkins is great as a quiet father who collects coins and who once shared that passion with his son. He delivers the strongest performance by far and is one of the best parts of the movie. Jenkins was often off the critics’ radar before his performance in the great film “The Visitor,” and “Dear John” uses him affectionately knowing his strengths as an actor.

As with some of the other Nicholas Sparks films, this is an old-fashioned romance about young love and the things that divide two people who have fallen in love. It is blatantly sentimental and aims straight at your heart strings without backing away. It unabashedly asks viewers to fall in love with the young couple and to believe in their relationship even though the two of them are often separated for long periods of time.

In the third act, though, the story takes a disappointing turn. After Tyree returns home from duty for a short period, there is a surprising revelation that detracts from the main story. It seems like an out of nowhere plot twist that only serves to make the conclusion of the film more dramatic.

Although the third act seriously hurts the movie, I did enjoy the film. It has enough strengths (including the father-son relationship) to overcome the weaknesses. Romance fans will likely not be disappointed. As for other film-goers, “Dear John” might be a letter best unopened.

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