Whether or not you'll want to see this new romantic comedy can probably be determined by seven simple words: "Based on a book by Nicholas Sparks."

Whether or not you'll want to see this new romantic comedy can probably be determined by seven simple words: "Based on a book by Nicholas Sparks."

Sparks, whose previous cinematic adaptations include A Walk to Remember and The Notebook, has the tendency to write overly sappy, star-crossed romances, and Dear John is no exception.

John (Channing Tatum) is a pretty boy soldier on leave, visiting his dad at the beach when he meets Savannah (the underappreciated Amanda Seyfried) in the spring of 2001. The pair spends the next two weeks falling in love - until her schooling and his soldiering pull them apart, forcing them into a long-distance relationship of letter writing until his tour ends.

Because Sparks is a pretty hackneyed writer, it should come as no surprise that love isn't going to be that simple. In the case of Dear John, the complexity comes in the form of the attacks on the World Trade Center - they inspire John to extend his commitment to the army, and Savannah to reconsider her commitment to their relationship.

Director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat) has a knack for shooting beautiful scenery, especially in this type of sentimental chick flick, but he's still no match for the overbearing Sparks. Even the battle scenes are dripping with the author's sticky-sweet influence.

Joined by Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins and E.T. kid Henry Thomas, the cast does their best with the material. They make the movie watchable, even occasionally enjoyable, but they can't make up for all that sappiness.