Special Forces soldier John (Channing Tatum) and privileged altruist Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) aren’t Abelard and Heloise, but their epistolary romance gives the USPS logo an erotic charge. In order to cut through the shameless syrup of their source material, adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels require that real heat be generated between love-torn leads. Tatum and Seyfried exhibit the same chemistry that Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams shared in 2004’s The Notebook—the most profitable page-to-screen transition in the Sparks oeuvre—and Dear John closely follows that film’s template: the South Carolina setting, the romance between a prole guy and rich gal, separation by war, putting pen to paper, mental impairments (autism in Dear John, Alzheimer’s in The Notebook), casting one of the stars of Mean Girls as the female lead. Director Lasse Hallström, who cut his teeth crafting mini-melodramas in Abba videos, deals with the inevitable emotional contrivances (mild 9/11-sploitation, diseases ex machina) matter-of-factly. The biggest surprise here is Tatum, whose butch reticence has never been put to better use: His saddest farewell isn’t to his lady, but to a man even more uncommunicative than he is.