“What are we doing? I mean, we’re sitting here […] and we’re talking, but no one’s actually saying anything.” –John Tyree (Channing Tatum)
As I often try to stress in my reviews, one must ALWAYS separate a book-to-film adaptation, or any other kind for that matter, from the source material. Otherwise, you are already setting yourself up to be disappointed. You see, books and novels are personal experiences; no two people will ever interpret one story the exact same way. With film, what you are presented onscreen is precisely what the director envisioned. There are also many more fundamentals that are exclusive to filmmaking and not books, including time constraints, using a narrative progression (rather than an omniscient account) and, of course, marketability to a mainstream audience. People need to learn this concept sooner or later.
So I never mind too much about small technicalities when walking into movies like this. Heck, they can change the source material completely as long as the end result is still satisfying. According to my mother, this is exactly what Swedish director Lasse Hallström did when adapting the Nicholas Sparks novel “Dear John.” The characters from the book are all here, but whole situations and outcomes are altered and/or switched for whatever reason. Unfortunately, this film is nothing more than just a standard, sappy romance story.
The story revolves around John Tyree and Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), a couple of young lovers who fell for each other in a matter of two weeks during spring break. However, John must return to duty in the U.S. army, as he was only on leave at the time. Oh, the tragedy. But Savannah and John still keep a long-distance relationship going by sending letters to each other overseas. They are still able to communicate and this makes the short visits from John all the more savory and delightful.
You see the quote from the movie I posted at the top? These are my exact thoughts during most of the movie. There is some sort of deeper meaning and probably even some emotion behind some of these lines of dialogue, but they fall short of being involving or relatable. Instead they just come off as weak and frankly pretty boring. The exchanges between Tatum and Seyfried are laughably unaffecting and performed with severely monotonous delivery.
You have seen this before; there have been PLENTY of other Nicholas Sparks adaptations, and better ones at that. “Dear John” has a familiar basic plot, a minimalist script, average young actors, forgettable supporting roles (including Henry Thomas and Richard Jenkins) and **SPOILER** a happy ending that apparently disregards everything about the book’s ending (according to mother). Not quite bad enough to hate, but it is much too formulaic and boring (those two seem to go hand-in-hand together). Sometimes, change is a good thing and sometimes it just isn’t. I can tell you that “Dear John” certainly is not a good thing.
Note: You would expect that the movie that kicked “Avatar” out of the first slot in the box office would have to be something extremely epic. Hmmm.