Safe Haven Directed by: Lasse Hallström Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: February 14, 2013
PLOT: Katie (Hough) escapes, ending up in Southport, North Carolina where she finds the support of a widower named Alex (Duhamel). Unfortunately, she has dark secrets which may come back and haunt her.
WHO'S IT FOR? The name Nicolas Sparks means something to you. This is more of the same of that.
The Notebook and Dear John are the good Sparks' adaptations. That's it. That's the list. Keep in mind, when I say "good Sparks' adaptations," it's different than saying "good movies." The pretty soap operas set in the shores of the East Coast, with dreamy casts, heartfelt courting that fills the time, and danger involving under-explained secrets are the perfect fix for some, while others learned their lesson once. Let's take a look at those four aspects and how they fit in Safe Haven.
East Coast Town Southport, North Carolina does look really nice. Without looking it up, I assume the film was shot on location. There are even scenes with Duhamel sweating. You can't fake that. Oh, you can? Well, it doesn't look like they did. The charm of little towns like this is brought to life with Katie finding a job at the local fish restaurant, where everyone is nice and unsuspecting. She also lands an apartment insanely easily (does she even have an I.D.?). I can't even explain how she furnished it since she doesn't have a car. I supposed she relied on the kindness of strangers. There's also Alex's daughter Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) who helps run the drug store, and child labor laws are never brought up. Charm.
Dreamy Casts This film is right in Duhamel's wheelhouse. He started off with soap opera's ("All My Children") and the role of the father with two young kids whose wife died of cancer a few years ago fits that mold perfectly. While I didn't see the remake of Footloose, I did watch Rock of Ages, and my main thought with Hough was that she has no depth as an actress. That's still the case. I am supposed to feel compassion, sorrow, and happiness for Katie, but for me it just looks like Hough would rather be cheerleading than acting. Perhaps this will change with time, but for now Hough is quickly becoming a red flag for me in films. Cobie Smulders ("How I Met Your Mother") plays Katie's friend Jo, and yes, that adds to the "dreamy" factor in this film.
Heartfelt Courting That Fills The Time Katie has a dark past. We're reminded about this every 15-20 minutes when we see a police officer investigating a case, or she is shown as a brunette. They also use dark-colored lenses on the cameras whenever they shoot these scenes, giving it a Payback-like darkness, compared to the brightness of the Southport scenes. So, what do we do when it's not dark? Fall in love. Alex and Katie haven't known each other for long (my guess is less than a month). A day at the beach, canoeing, long drives home, and a rain storm give them all the time they need to know they love each other. Plus, the sex scene. There is also a montage of fixing doors, painting floors and walking.
Danger Involving Under-Explained Secrets Just because Safe Haven isn't my cup of tea (if you couldn't tell yet), doesn't mean I will spoil the details for those looking forward to the odd/surprising twist. You get two twists for the price of one with this film! Early on, when Katie is running from Boston, we see the results of an abused woman in a relationship. The officer investigating (David Lyons) is clearly connected and taking things too far. The perfect example of too far is drinking warm vodka on a hot day, while carrying a gun. That never ends wells. The other twist is something that probably worked really well in the novel, but completely left me laughing.
Safe Haven absolutely feels straight-to-DVD or made-for-TV. A decent performance by Duhamel, an adorable performance by Kirkland, and plenty of nice moments that fill the time don't fix the standard issues when dealing with a Sparks' adaptation.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10