‘Safe Haven’ a cute romantic film

Posted April 1, 2013


With movies like “The Notebook” and “Dear John” that had us crying our eyes out in romantic bliss, it is no wonder that flocks of people lined up on Valentine’s Day to see the newest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

However, “Safe Haven” undoubtedly played it safe.  With sub-par acting, overly dramatic editing, and an unexpected plot twist, this movie lacks all of the components of an award-winning movie.

However, it does fulfill its sole purpose — it’s a cute romantic flick that is even a potential tearjerker.

The movie begins with a young girl named Katie (Julianne Hough) running bleary-eyed through a bus station with the weight of a crime on her shoulders.  Katie does finally outrun whomever she is being chased by and catches a bus where she ends up in the small town of Southport, N.C. — her safe haven.

With rays of sunshine and a cheery music, Katie steps off the bus into her new life.  She enters the local store on the corner where she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), and the two lock eyes. Sparks fans will enjoy the rest of the film. She just happens to be the blonde bombshell that randomly enters a store and just so happens to meet the hunky single dad with washboard abs and two adorable children.

Katie stays and ends up buying a small cottage in the woods. She comes home to find a woman named Jo (Cobie Smulders) peering in, as she hasn’t had a neighbor in years.  However, Jo looks well put together and is extremely social for living alone in the woods and not having any friends.

After many visits to the store for paint and other household items, Alex develops a crush on Katie and, with the encouragement of her new friend Jo, she allows Alex into her life.  A series of dates begin something like a high school fling that have you cringing and smiling at the same time.  First Alex gives Katie a bike, and then they go to the beach with his adorable kids and even have a cute make out session behind a tree while his friend waits in the car.

But after all of the sunshine and flowers melt away (and it seems like eternity until something really interesting starts to happen), flashbacks finally start to uncover piece by piece of what happened back in Boston that forced Katie to flee. The director cuts to scenes of her with her long brown hair in a happy marriage one minute and then shaking with a bloody corpse on floor the other minute.

They even show her chopping off her own locks to disguise herself which is hard to believe considering her blonde bob looks as if she just walked out of a John Frieda salon.

And although these glimpses into Katie’s former life are supposed to seem ominous and suspenseful, it may be difficult to take them seriously since this is Hough’s debut acting role.  She does a spectacular job capturing the cute and cheerful side of Katie’s character but may not be able to tackle the deeper stuff yet, which makes the more serious scenes a little hard to watch.

The movie does do justice to Sparks’ fans by providing the romantic clichés that most of his movies do although the romance is nowhere near that of “The Notebook”; the best you’ll get is a cute scene of kissing in the rain and no more than 30 seconds of them under the covers.

And just as the two fall hopelessly in love with each other the melodrama begins.  Katie’s face is plastered on flyers stating that she is a wanted for murder, and shocker—Alex just so happens to stumble upon one as he’s hanging around the police station with his cop friends.

A normal reaction would be run, and rightfully so.  But what does Alex do?  After a bit of yelling he then does what a Sparks’ movie male role always does, which is to stand by his woman in the face of any hardship.

And just when you’re moving around in your seat and getting slightly nauseous from the ick-factor of cliché romance, a long ending scene that seems to last an eternity (think of final battle in a war movie) ensues.  Katie’s drunken husband Kevin Tierney (David Lyons) shows up to Fourth of July part in a rage with shocker — vodka and a gun.  And as if there’s not enough melodrama to totally make you puke by this point, there are two twist endings that really catch you off guard and bring the sappiness to an entirely new level.

Besides the sub-par acting at times and the overly predictable love scenes, the movie is still worth seeing if you’re a hopeless romantic or perhaps a Sparks fan.  But if not, the highlight of “Safe Haven” may be when Duhamel takes his shirt off at the beach.

  • Title: “Safe Haven”
  • Release Date: Feb. 14
  • Distributor: Relativity Media, LLC
  • Leading Actors: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders
  • Director: Lasse Hallstrom
  • Run Time: 115 min
  • Local Screenings: AMC Sunset Place 24; Paragon Grove 13
  • Price: $11 for adults; $8 for children
  • MPAA: PG-13
  • Personal Rating: 2.8