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 Katies 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 Sparks 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 Duhamels widowed father being particularly saintly. Anyone wanna bet the doe-eyed Hough is going to fall for the single dad? Yeah- thought so
Then again, you dont 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 best friend part livens things up a bit, but even she cant 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 its 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 WHATS EATING GILBERT GRAPE, MY LIFE AS A DOG, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, THE HOAX, and other- far better films. Still, its not awful.
That is- its 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, Ill try not to give too much away. But- the so-called thriller 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 doesnt offer the slightest amount of tension, and in fact- is eye-rollingly bad in its clichés.
However- thats not the worst part of SAFE HAVEN. Not by a long shot. The worst part of SAFE HAVEN is the final, ridiculous twist thats probably the most unintentionally hilarious ending since the jaw-dropping stupidity of REMEMBER MEs September 11th twist. This isnt quite as off-the-wall, but its just as bad. Oh well- dumb as this ending is, at least its 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, youll probably get some mild enjoyment out of this. If, like me- all the Sparks adaptations tend to blur into one big generic movie, youd be well advised to skip this. Heck- even as a date movie its a failure. Stay home and rent THE NOTEBOOK instead.
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