Review: 'Dear John' typical Nicholas Sparks fare

Friday , August 06, 2010 - 11:15 AM

Steve Salles - Standard-Examiner movie critic

Open telegram to acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks: Dear Nicky, may I call you that? Stop.

Why do you insist on putting death in all your stories? Stop.

Unhappy childhood and taking it out on us? Stop.

Please, for the love of God, just stop! Stop.

Actually, if anything, I think he's getting worse. It reminds me of "M*A*S*H's" Cpl. Max Klinger coming up with excuses to go home. Mother dying. Father dying. Mother and father both dying. Father dying, sister pregnant. And here's an oldie but a goodie: Half of the family dying, other half pregnant.

Klinger's got nothing on Nicholas Sparks.

In the case of "Dear John," he throws two cute kids together. John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is home in South Carolina on leave from the Army. He meets sweet Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) at a seaside pier after rescuing her purse from the frigid waters. He drowns, right? No. Wait for it. They begin a two-week, whirlwind romance that ends with them proclaiming their undying love and commit to writing each other every day about their experiences. Aahh. Then he gets killed in action, right? No. Patience.

9/11 happens -- and it changes everything.

John "re-ups" for a second tour, even though he promised Savannah he would be home in a year. She rewards his heroism by sending him the dreaded "Dear John" letter. What!?

What happened to that never-ending love nonsense? John is devastated, but Savannah has apparently found someone else. I see, so he's distracted in battle, gets mortally wounded and we all go home in tears, right? No. Nicky Sparks is toying with us. He's saving his "best" for last.

I haven't even mentioned the cute autistic kid who likes horses, the semiautistic dad (Richard Jenkins) who likes coin collecting and the cool guy next door who seems a little too sickly for his own good.

Oh, Nicky, what wicked webs we weave. (Say that five times fast, Elmer Fudd.)

Here's the REAL sad part. Channing and Amanda are really quite good together. Plus, the director, Lasse Hallstrom, knows his way around a beautiful motion picture.

It's this blasted Sparks story, along with the insipid dialogue, that is the TRUE death knell of "Dear John."

Here's an idea, Nicky. Next time, have the author/narrator die in midsentence. That would make everyone happy. Well, at least me.

Steve Salles can be reached at films@standard. net.

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