“Dear John,” directed by Lasse Hallström, is the latest movie adapted from a novel by Nicholas Sparks and remixes many of the requisite gooey ingredients – star-crossed lovers, terminal illness, romantic beachside gambols, a crate load of hankies. “The Notebook,” starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, was the template for this sort of thing, and “Dear John” barely reworks the formula.
Channing Tatum plays John Tyree, a Special Forces soldier who falls in love with moony, idealistic Savannah, played by Amanda Seyfried, while on leave visiting his autistic father (Richard Jenkins) in South Carolina. (He cooks lasagna without fail every Sunday, so you know something’s odd.)
Savannah is on spring break from college, John is hoping to finish his tour of duty in a year so they can live happily ever after. Then 9/11 intervenes. Lots of letters are dispatched between these two lovebirds, which is a testament not only to their enduring ardor but also to the postal system, which unfailingly reaches John in top-secret hideaways in, from the look of it, Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Halfway through the movie, I decided a better title for this weepie contraption would be “The Hurt Letter.” Tatum is stolid and semi-expressive, Seyfried widens her eyes to saucer-size. Weep on. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and violence.)