You know something bad is about to happen. In the first few minutes of "The Vow," as happy couple Paige and Leo (Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum) exit a theater and see a fresh coat of snow, and go through the motions of digging out their car, then pulling out onto the road, you don't need to see the headlights bearing down on them -- though you will -- to know this drive won't end well.
And you certainly don't need to hear the voice-over -- Tatum, speaking in solemn tones about life's unexpected "moments," yadda, yadda.
That voice-over -- which pops up (annoyingly) throughout the story -- may be the biggest complaint about this romantic charmer directed by Michael Sucsy. It waters down a story with a rather spicy premise -- what do you do if your partner survives a car crash but wakes up with no memory of the last five years? Or . . . you?
Based on a true story, "The Vow" follows Paige and Leo as they struggle to get to know each other again, despite her uptight parents (Jessica Lange, Sam Neill), and Jeremy (Scott Speedman), Paige's slick ex-fiance, whom she does recall -- lovingly -- with no memory of why they split.
Tatum is unusually expressive; Speedman, both hiss-worthy and sympathetic. But McAdams is the real draw. Exuding her usual uncanny warmth on-screen, she uses that magnetism to fine effect here. You keep rooting for her, even when Paige gets, well . . . annoying, distancing herself from Leo, whom you know she's meant to be with.
Or is she? Sucsy (whose first feature film, "Grey Gardens," depicted the complex relationship of Long Island's own wacky Beales) poses challenging questions about the inevitability of love, and whether we'd really make the same choices again if life handed us a do-over. If only he'd nix the sappy, oh-so-earnest voice-over.
PLOT A young husband must find a way to woo his wife all over again after a car accident leaves her with amnesia. RATING PG-13 (accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity, language)
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE A charming romancer that sometimes, ahem, hits you over the head.