"Dear John" is a sweet, inspiring romantic-drama.
Amanda Seyfried is Savannah, a Charleston, S.C., college student who falls for John (Channing Tatum), an Army Special Forces Sergeant on leave.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, John extends his service overseas. Their adieu, "I'll see you soon." is ironic when her letters, the "Dear John" of the title, become his life support.
"Dear John" is "Love Story" for the new millennium. Other recent movies provide the contemporary soldier's perspective. "Dear John" examines the dynamic between a soldier's duty and its impact on loved ones at home.
Seyfried ("Mama Mia!," HBO's "Big Love"), with her huge eyes, expressive face, luxurious golden locks and energetic small frame, can hold the screen. We'll see more of Seyfried, who turned 25 on Dec. 3, including another scribe-driven script, "Letters to Juliet" (May), and "Chloe."
Tatum ("G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra") is a commanding presence, clear-eyed, thoughtful face and an abs-fab body on display for the surfer-warrior role.
Seyfried's and Tatum's on-screen chemistry is palpable. Their love-making scene is tender.
Richard Jenkins is a gem as John's obsessive father. Henry Thomas is convincing as a caring neighbor and father of an autistic son.
Lasse Hallstrom ("The Shipping News," "Chocolat," "Cider House Rules," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "My Life As A Dog") directs at a leisurely pace, lingering over scenes with Seyfried and Tatum, from a screenplay by Jamie Linden ("We Are Marshall") based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks ("Nights in Rodanthe," "The Notebook," "Message in A Bottle").
The metaphor about soldiers as newly-minted coins being polished by military experience works to a point. Four music video-style segues gin up the action, buttressing a deficient script with music's emotive power, not unlike contemporary TV shows juicing up a concluding scene's intended profundity.
"Dear John" is worth seeing for dear Amanda Seyfried, who, at 5 ft., 3 in., is now huge in Hollywood.
"Dear John": MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some sensuality and violence; Genre: Drama, Romance, War; Run time: 1 hr., 45 min.; Distributed by Screen Gems-Sony Pictures
Credit Readers Anonymous: Amanda Seyfried strums the guitar and sings "Little House," which she wrote, during a scene in "Dear John."
"Single" Oscar: Colin Firth, nominated for an actor Oscar, is one reason to see "A Single Man." His performance as a college professor coping with the loss of a longtime companion is deserved.
It's easy to see why it wasn't a giant leap from fashion director to movie director for Tom Ford, with a designer's eye for meticulous detail and inspired imagery, without drawing overt attention to the 1962 Los Angeles setting.
Julianna Moore again is splendid as neighbor and old friend. Nicholas Hoult as a young student is stunningly enigmatic.
Box Office, Feb. 5: You may recall "Avatar" director James Cameron shouting a line from "Titanic" that "I'm the King of the World" at the Academy Awards ceremony when his movie won 11 Oscars in 1998.
Allentown's Amanda Michelle Seyfried is now Queen of the World, or at least the cinema world.
It was a super weekend for Seyfried, whose "Dear John" opened at No. 1, with $32.4 million, highest-ever for a Super Bowl weekend.
Seyfried knocked "Avatar" from its seven-week No. 1 run to No. 2, $23.6 million, $630 million.
She also bested John Travolta's "From Paris with Love," which settled for a No. 3 opening, with a dismal $8.1 million.
It was appropriate that in the week of the announcement of Oscar nominations, which honor many Hollywood stalwarts, that Seyfried's success, including her interview on "Late Night with David Letterman," where she began, "I'm from Allentown, Pa., which is about two hours west of here."; and landing again on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, points to Tinseltown's future.
Also at the box office:
4."Edge of Darkness," $7 million, $29 million, two weeks; 5. "Tooth Fairy," $6.5 million, $34.3 million, three weeks; 6. "When in Rome," $5.5 million, $20.8 million, two weeks; 7. "The Book of Eli," $4.8 million, $82.1 million, four weeks; 8. "Crazy Heart," $3.6 million, moving into wide release, $11.1 million, entering the Top 10 after eight weeks; 9. "Legion," $3.4 million, $34.6 million, three weeks; 10. "Sherlock Holmes," $2.6 million, $201.5 million, seven weeks. 18. "A Single Man," $631,000, $6.1 million, nine weeks
Unreel, Feb. 12: Garry Marshall directs the star-studded "Valentine's Day" about couples' expectations for the big day, with Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx; those whose first names don't start in J, including those whose names begin with T: Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Topher Grace; those whose names being with A: Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher; and much of the rest of the alphabet: Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, George Lopez, Hector Elizondo, Kathy Bates, Queen Latifah, Patrick Dempsey and Shirley MacLaine.
"The Wolfman" stars Benicio Del Toro as the title's follicle-challenged character; and Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt.
"Percy Jackson & the Olympians" is a mythical tale directed by Chris Columbus about a 12-year-old (Logan Lerman), whose birth father is the god Poseidon. The boy must settle a feud between Zeus and Hades. Sounds like an excellent Eagle Scout Project.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes