Dear John tells us something about lost love. Let’s say the girl you thought was “the one” decided to marry someone else while you were away. Shucks, right? Well no, not according to Dear John. All you need to do is wait for her husband to fall terminally ill with lymphoma and make your move. Que happy ending… or at least a slightly sleazy one.
Yet another Nicholas Sparks novel transferred into the realm of Hollywood, Dear John is just as manipulative, heavy handed, and insincere as the rest. All of the requisite clichés are present, including the meet cute. Here, Channing Tatum, acting as stiff as his surfboard in these opening scenes, dives off a pier to retrieve Amanda Seyfried’s purse which she has dropped into the ocean below. As one of the secondary characters asks, “Who does that?”
Well, John Tyree (Tatum) does of course, sparking a two-week relationship before he is sent back to active duty. Cue a manipulative 9/11 plot point, a dying father, an autistic child, charity house building, and a soldier shot in the line of duty. Off we go into a realm of pleasing cinematography and painfully stiff action scenes… two of them.
Everything about Dear John feels forced. Dialogue is either dreadfully boring or unnatural. Writing is lazy, including that convenient first date where the guy has to explain his entire life for the sake of the audience. Could you imagine if that information had to be revealed in a natural manner via the story? The horror.
Dear John opens with Tatum being shot during a mission in Iraq, apparently because he forgot his super suit provided to him during G.I. Joe. That leaves some hope that maybe, just maybe Dear John will not follow the obvious and predictable path we’ve come to expect from Sparks’ adaptations. Sadly, there are no surprises here, only a few curveballs. Does that count as a spoiler? [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Dear John comes from Sony in an AVC encode, one that is generally pleasing in terms of depth and color. Saturation is high, and thankfully keeps flesh tones natural. Contrast is bright and lively, certainly suited to the earlier scenes during the initial fling between the two main characters. Some sequences do dilute the primaries, leaving the film cool in appearance (most of the military stuff), but strong, deep, and rich black levels give the film pop.
Detail is typically flat, save for many of the establishing shots. Trees, weeds on the beach, and buildings offer fantastic definition. Facial detail is typically lacking, with a few exceptions. Past the hour marker, 1:02:24, Tatum’s face in a series of close-ups exhibits superbly defined pores and texture. Generally, this is not the case. Other shots can appear a bit processed or smoothed. At 41:31, Richard Jenkins appears digital and soft, certainly not the norm for this encode.
A few technical hurdles are easily overcome. A long shot of Tatum and Seyfried on the beach at 28:37 shows some notable ringing, the only scene to do so. A shot at 1:09:33 looks like stock footage that has been heavily compressed, even down to DVD quality. Additional stock footage is used at 1:14:46 in a brief montage. The moon causes a few problems, including pixelation as it passes by trees at 40:29, and banding at 1:41:17.
Generally, the transfer is pleasing. The encode suffers no ill-effects from a standard, light grain structure. The blacks, as mentions before, are deep enough to satisfy and more importantly, consistent. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
From the opening credits, Dear John’s DTS-HD effort is crisp and clear, the opening musical cue offering fantastic clarity. Fidelity is certainly high. Ambiance in these beach scenes is excellent, waves washing up on shore in the surrounds and stereo channels. Scenes of Tatum surfing carry a little weight in the low-end as the heavier waves smash into each other. Restaurants and parties offer a small layer of ambiance, although nothing terribly aggressive or notable.
Brief gunfire during a shootout carries a tinny, hollow quality, and certainly nothing on the low-end. Dialogue is typically fine, with the exception of a scene at 21:30 inside an unfinished home where it suddenly takes on a hollow, muffled quality. This is nothing that renders it unintelligible, just a bit jarring in comparison to the rest of the film. That said, the random rain that starts pouring down does offer quite a bit in terms of surround and stereo channel activity. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Twelve deleted scenes (including a separate alternate ending that wasn’t predictable) run 14-minutes combined. A brief selection of outtakes run a little over two-minutes. A Conversation with Channing, Lasse, and Amanda is a collection of interviews where these three praise each other for over five minutes.
Transforming Charleston is an interesting look at how the production design changed South Carolina into a variety of locations effectively. Military in the Movies looks at the involvement of (duh?) the military and their role on set. Mr. Tyree, The Mule, and Benny Dietz looks at one of the staff who is an actual coin collector and helped in the film’s depiction.
The Story of Braeden Reed is a fantastic piece on the young actor who plays one of the children, easily the best part of the entire film. The piece is the longest on the disc at 24:33, and is well worth a watch. Sony’s usual round-up of MovieIQ, BD-Live, and trailers are left. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]