What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this Channing Tatum/Amanda Seyfried romantic drama based on Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel includes some non-graphic sexuality and wartime violence (including one scene in which two soldiers are shot) but is otherwise a pretty tame romance that's age appropriate for teens. The lead couple (who are college-age when they meet) share many intense kisses and spend one night together, but there's no nudity. Language includes a few uses of "s--t" and some exclamations like "oh my God." Two supporting characters -- one young and one adult -- are autistic, and their conditions are discussed several times. Positive messages include the importance of service and the many ways that people can help others in need.
What's the story?
Based on Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel, DEAR JOHN follows college student Savannah (Amanda Seyfried), who meets special ops soldier John (Channing Tatum) while visiting her family's Charleston beach house for spring break. After they "meet cute" (he jumps into the ocean to rescue her purse), they quickly become inseparable and fall in love after just two weeks. When John is redeployed for his final year of service, the two write dozens of letters to each other. But in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, John breaks the news to Savannah that his entire unit is voluntarily extending their enlistment -- thereby postponing his reunion with her for another two years. But as time marches forward, John notices that Savannah's letters have slowed. ...
Is it any good?
Tatum and Seyfried manage to conjure a comfortable chemistry, but their characters are simply too good to seem real. Seyfried's Savannah is selfless to a fault, and her willingness to help others even at the expense of her own happiness is over the top. Anyone familiar with Sparks' novels (or the many movies based on them) knows that there are always several obstacles to keep his star-crossed lovers apart, and Dear John is no exception; but the "twist" here is so far-fetched that it borders on infuriating.
Still, those looking for a weepy love story may forgive that Dear John stops making sense halfway through. Director Lasse Hallstrom knows how to manipulate audiences into crying for his characters, and there's plenty of Kleenex-worthy material toward the movie's end. One subplot that's genuinely affecting is John's relationship with his autistic father (Richard Jenkins); one of the movie's most touching scenes is when John reads his hospitalized father a letter. While Dear John ranks nowhere near the scorching romance that Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams created in The Notebook, it's slightly better than several other bland films based on Sparks' books.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Savannah and John's romance. Does it seem believable? How does it compare to real-life teen relationships?
Do Savannah's choices resonate with you? What do you think about her decision to put her love for John second to her sense of obligation to others?