Rachel McAdams, left, and Channing Tatum star in "The Vow." 

Columbia Pictures

Oh, was there ever an opportunity here.

But it's easier to go the traditional route, I guess, than make waves.

"The Vow" is based loosely on a real story: Kim and Krickitt Carpenter are real-life husband and wife who really were in a traffic accident back in the 1990s. They hadn't been married very long. Krickitt barely survived the injuries from the crash. And when she regained consciousness, she had no memory - still has no memory, in fact - of dating her husband Kim or of their wedding.

Kim literally began to gradually date his own wife in a determined effort to win her heart again. Both credit their faith in God to helping them through the journey. (They are still married and the parents of two children. You'll see a photo of the Carpenters at the end of "The Vow.")

If this screenplay had been a faith-based story that stuck to the facts, it would have been an even more compelling Valentine's Day release. It would have maintained general appeal while drawing the under-served faith-based audience. As it is, it's a TV movie dressed up with creditable performers who make their way through a soap opera instead of a bona fide love story.

Paige (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) are heading home on a winter's day in Chicago when they are injured in an accident. Paige is more severely injured, and when she regains consciousness, she has lost five years of her memory - including her wedding to Leo.

Paige's wealthy parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) arrive to encourage her to come home with them to recover. Even though Leo knows that he and Paige have many obstacles to overcome, he asks her to come home with him so they can rebuild their lives together.

Contrivances abound, not to mention ridiculous situations (how can they afford a spacious apartment and an art studio?) that end up in melodrama pushing even soap opera limits.

Certainly, the leads are likeable and make a cute couple. And Midwestern audiences will enjoy seeing so many familiar, Chicago-based landmarks.

Still, this is a pale shadow of the movie that could have been, and of the real-life love story that is.