Dear John Will Move You to Tears

The basic necessities of a romantic tearjerker are right there in the description: love and loss (and then, in the best-case scenario, love again). And that's what you'll get — no less, but not much more — in Lasse Hallstrom's earnest adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' novel "Dear John."

First, we meet our Star-Crossed Couple, college student Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) and Special Forces soldier John (Channing Tatum). Then we swoon as this gorgeous pair fall in love, after a chance encounter on a South Carolina beach in early 2001. They promise to write regularly, until John returns in a year.

But soon enough, we come up against the Obstacles. The first is John's re-enlistment after 9/11, which leaves Savannah alone and worried.

The second is the inevitable Dear John letter, in which she tells her soul mate that she is about to marry someone else. All that's left is the Potential Reunion, but you won't find any spoilers here.

This is not a movie for those who care that Savannah has no reasonable explanation for leaving John. Coincidences, well-timed illnesses and inexplicable decisions are freely employed. You have to be willing to go with Sparks' flow, tolerating his formula as part of the package.

You'll also have to accept that John's personality is mostly confined to his pecs. That may not sound like much of a complaint, but the truth is that Tatum can, and should, do more. Ryan Gosling proved a romantic hero can be portrayed intelligently in "The Notebook," which helped make it Sparks' most successful big-screen adaptation by far.

Still, the leads do have a strong chemistry, and Seyfried brings a spunky confidence to her role. The small supporting cast is equally appealing, with Richard Jenkins and Henry Thomas doing fine work as John's father and Savannah's neighbor, respectively.

So if you're looking for the next Oscar winner — or even the next "Notebook" — you won't find it here.

But if you're just hoping for a little easy escapism, bring your tissues and leave your high standards at home.

New York Daily News has contributed to the report.

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