Review: Safe Haven
PLOT: Katie (Julianne Hough) is a young woman on the run, who lands in a sleepy North Carolina town, and tries to start a new life. She quickly falls for Alex (Josh Duhamel) - a widowed father of two- but their bliss is threatened by Katieís past.
REVIEW: SAFE HAVEN is a return to the Nicholas Sparks well for director Lasse Hallstrom, after making DEAR JOHN a few years ago. SAFE HAVEN is being hyped as a departure for Sparks, with this adding some thriller elements into the mix. Basically, this is a really tame version of SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, mixed in with Sparksí usual small-town, folksy idealized romance. Like in THE NOTEBOOK, DEAR JOHN, THE LUCKY ONE, etc- the characters are less like real people than idealized romantic stereotypes, with Duhamelís widowed father being particularly saintly. Anyone wanna bet the doe-eyed Hough is going to fall for the single dad? Yeah- thought soÖ
Then again, you donít exactly walk into a Sparks adaptation expecting BLUE VALENTINE, and for about half of SAFE HAVEN, its no worse than other big-screen adaptations of his work (heck- I even kinda liked THE NOTEBOOK). Hough and Duhamel are a pretty, but bland pair- although they do well enough with the simple, predictable material. Cobie Smulders, in the bland ďbest friendĒ part livens things up a bit, but even she canít make something out of nothing- which is exactly what she gets to work with here. For his part, Hallstrom seems to be on autopilot, and itís sad to think that this movie- which is really no better directed than your run-of-the-mill Lifetime TV-movie, comes from the director of WHATíS EATING GILBERT GRAPE, MY LIFE AS A DOG, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, THE HOAX, and other- far better films. Still, itís not awful.
That is- itís not awful until the second hour, when the thriller aspect of the film starts to take over. Just in case anyone reading this has a hankering to go so it, or is dragged by their significant other, Iíll try not to give too much away. But- the so-called ďthrillerĒ part of the film is really bad, with the sweaty, crazy-eyed cop pursuing Hough (David Lyons) obviously being up to no good. It all climaxes in a big 4th of July fireworks display/fire that doesnít offer the slightest amount of tension, and in fact- is eye-rollingly bad in its clichťs.
However- thatís not the worst part of SAFE HAVEN. Not by a long shot. The worst part of SAFE HAVEN is the final, ridiculous twist thatís probably the most unintentionally hilarious ending since the jaw-dropping stupidity of REMEMBER MEís September 11th twist. This isnít quite as off-the-wall, but itís just as bad. Oh well- dumb as this ending is, at least itís not bland, which is more than I can say for the rest of the movie. Fact is- a Nicholas Sparks adaptation plays to a specific audience, and if THE LUCKY ONE or DEAR JOHN had you reaching for your hankies, youíll probably get some mild enjoyment out of this. If, like me- all the Sparks adaptations tend to blur into one big generic movie, youíd be well advised to skip this. Heck- even as a date movie itís a failure. Stay home and rent THE NOTEBOOK instead.