On a South Carolina beach, a reticent G.I. Joe (Tatum) on temporary leave meets a rich girl (Seyfried), and the duo instantly ignites sparks—Nicholas Sparks, that is. Another achingly earnest adaptation from one of the chick-lit superstar’s formulaic weepies (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember), Chocolat director Lasse Hallstrm’s tastefully old-fashioned melodrama has exactly one objective: yanking gallons of cathartic tears out of your face by any means necessary.
After several heart-swelling weeks together—with a turgidly shot make-out session in the rain forever binding our young lovebirds—the two vow to reunite after the soldier’s tour of duty ends, leaving the art of letter writing to stoke their flames of passion. As they barely know each other (meaning ditto for us), however, insincere proclamations about their skin-deep chemistry, as read in voiceover, probably aren’t enough to lube the eyes. Which doesn’t mean Dear John is without a few wet-duct tricks up its sleeve: There’s more autism, cancer, 9/11 shocks and bittersweet heartbreak here than you can shake a hankie at. Sometimes the leads pull off genuine tenderness, and other times their gauzily written caricatures can’t elevate such overwrought housewife bait, but chances are, given its literary pedigree, most viewers are preordained to love or loathe it.—Aaron Hillis
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