Two weeks together is all it took for Savannah to fall deeply in love with Army grunt John, but neither expected the war on terror to pull them apart. Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried play the couple looking to enjoy every moment together in this tearjerking drama from the director of Chocolat and The Cider House Rules.
It's a hot summer and John's (Tatum) just a hangin' by the beach. He spots Savannah (Seyfried) on the pier, and dives in to rescue her handbag when it drops into the ocean.
She's impressed, and happily gives the guy her number - much the chagrin of her suitors. For the next two weeks, the pair spend time together, falling in love along the way.
He even takes her home to meet his reclusive, coin-collecting, autistic father (Jenkins), and she introduces John to her friends, some of whom end up on the wrong end of John's short-fused temper.
But John's not the fighting kind anymore - since enlisting in the army he's become a stand up guy. And when the planes hit the World Trade Center and America declares war on terror, John heads back to the army, and the lovers become pen pals.
Will their love survive the distance? Will John survive the war? Will Richard Jenkins turn to the camera and directly ask if he can have an Oscar?
For all of its pretensions Dear John feels like a series of montage sequences interspersed with blatant tugs on heartstrings.
Few of which truly hit home, save, perhaps, for John's relationship with his father, which is of far more interest than the one he has with the surprisingly irritating Seyfried.
Tatum, however, just about holds his own. Whether or not he's playing to type is irrelevant, he's a convincing soldier both in and out of uniform, much to the target audience's delight no doubt, although it's largely thanks to Seyfried's complete banality that Tatum is left to carry the film.
But this is a movie that tries too hard to cover the tearjerking bases, and in doing so manages to miss every single one of them.
And, with a narrative that meanders around, without reason or purpose, that relies heavily on the now-pat war sequences to spice it up, there's little to be had here that hasn't already been done. And better.