Dear John

Dear John

2010, PG-13, 108 min. Directed by Lasse Hallström. Starring Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona, Cullen Moss, Scott Porter.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 5, 2010

I don’t mean to argue that all romantic figures in the movies should conform to the same ideal – variety is the spice of life, after all – but was the world really begging for a leading man in cropped cargo pants? Or perhaps they’re XL board shorts: All I know is I spent a good chunk of Dear John’s first act puzzling over Tatum’s lower half, sheathed as it was in material too long to pass for shorts and too short to pass for pants. It’s a distraction, to be sure, but the filmmakers have helpfully included only the slimmest of story here, leaving ample time to wonder over Tatum’s costuming. Based on a weepie by bestselling novelist Nicholas Sparks, Dear John frontloads its action to the beginning, in which reformed hooligan John (Tatum) is home in beachside South Carolina, on leave from the Army. He falls fast for Savannah (Seyfried, sweet but underused), a saintly type passing her academic spring break building houses with Habitat for Humanity and speculating out loud that John’s shut-in dad (an affecting Jenkins) is autistic. (Turns out she’s right.) When John heads back overseas to finish out his tour, he and Savannah swap letters, which are obvious, mewling, and frankly pretty boring; then 9/11 happens and changes the course of their romantic future. More stuff happens after this, and it is as ill-defined and static-seeming as “stuff” implies. 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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Lasse Hallström Films
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Go see the actual ballet instead

Josh Kupecki, Nov. 2, 2018

A Dog’s Purpose
Reincarnated dog film is full of cliches

Josh Kupecki, Jan. 27, 2017

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: Time to Vote for Your Favorite Local People and Places in <i>The Austin Chronicle</i>’s Best of Austin Awards
We Have an Issue: Time to Vote for Your Favorite Local People and Places in The Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin Awards
Show your appreciation for the good work folks are doing

March 31, 2023

One Fine Morning
An intimate depiction of the weight of dementia on careers

March 24, 2023


Dear John, Lasse Hallström, Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona, Cullen Moss, Scott Porter

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle