The melodrama "Love and Honor" is not terribly dissimilar to a lightweight period romance that you might catch on a television network such as the Hallmark Channel. There's nothing particularly wrong with that. With an attractive cast, the movie might be appealing to the younger demographic or those that aren't concerned with any amount of dramatic realism. With its modern sensibilities and contemporary styling, the movie plays with the "let's put on a show" exuberance that contradicts the potential seriousness of the subject matter. Never for a minute can you believe that this accurately reflects the tumultuous period that it pretends to depict. Instead, it is a group of modern (albeit appealing) actors going though the cliches that signify Vietnam era concerns. Shot through a gauzy filter, the movie looks lovely enough and many of the performances are earnest. But the movie lacks bite and realness. At best, it's a tepid tweener romance portrayed by a nice slate of up-and-coming actors. At worst, it is riddled with painful platitudes and (despite being well meaning) ends up being so contrived and corny as to be almost unbearable.
The film begins, improbably enough, in the jungles of Vietnam. We're introduced a group of well scrubbed soldiers who banter affectionately amidst the surrounding dangers. You won't believe it for a minute. When on furlough, a soldier (Austin Stowell) wants to return to the states to proclaim his enduring love for the girl he left behind (Aimee Teegarden). Much to his surprise, she has changed her name and become a part of the anti-war movement. His best buddy (Liam Hemsworth) has accompanied him and the two must fend off the requisite disdain of this peace loving group of hippies. You won't believe a minute of this environment either. Instead of a serious contemplation of a volatile age, what follows includes every easy cliche that can be trotted out cobbled together from better movies. Hemsworth falls for a comely young lady (Teresa Palmer) as well, and most of the story deals with this courtship. To be accepted, the soldiers claim to be deserters and wacky hijinks ensue. There are plenty of impassioned speeches all around, but when necessary, the film finishes up with cartoonish antics that have to be seen to be believed. I'm taking a whole star off due to the finale in the police station that has all the emotional resonance and believability of an episode of Hogan's Heroes.
I'm really not trying to judge "Love and Honor" too harshly. If it was playing on TV for free, it might pass the time well enough. The movie is certainly at its most effective when dealing with the relationship between Hemsworth and Palmer. They are an attractive pair and they have good chemistry. Palmer (Warm Bodies), especially, seems like someone to watch. In other circumstances, they might be able to generate a good amount of heat. But "Love and Honor" tries for heartfelt too often. To generate real emotions, however, the movie needed to feel distinctly more authentic. As every situation is contrived, nothing real ever feels like it is at stake. The cast does what it can with an incredibly superficial screenplay, but can never overcome the manufactured nature of the story. Lightweight drama that isn't remotely real. About 2 1/2 stars, I'm rounding down due to the ridiculous police station scene. KGHarris, 7/13.