MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Julianne Hough as KATIE
Josh Duhamel as ALEX
Cobie Smulders as JO
David Lyons as KEVIN
Noah Lomax as JOSH
Mimi Kirkland as LEXIE
Studio: Relativity Media
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
BY KEVIN CARR
In the bonus features of this very film, sappy love story author and chick flick king Nicholas Sparks (who has ascended to the role of producer and studio head with this film) openly admits to the fact that “Safe Haven” is a bit of a departure for him.
That’s only sort of true. The departure comes from the film’s set-up being a thriller rather than a strict unrequited love story. It also have some twists in the story that are kind of bonkers, even for him. But still, “Safe Haven” reeks of Nicholas Sparks.
Yet it might be his most accessible film to people who have no interest in movies like “The Notebook” and “Dear John.”
“Safe Haven” tells the story of a woman (Julianne Hough) on the run who leaves Boston in the middle of the night. She ends up settling in a small coastal town where she falls in love with a widower (Josh Duhamel) and his two children. However, her past from Boston haunts her, and her overbearing husband – who also happens to be a cop – is getting closer to finding her.
If those opening paragraphs were not indication enough, you can guess that I’m not a Nicholas Sparks fan. The most positive review I’ve given to his films was for “The Notebook,” and if I were to watch it today in my stupor from Nicholas Sparks fatigue, I’d probably hate it.
That being said, I recognized his brand, and I can’t fault his fans. His stories are not my cup of tea, but clearly he has a lot of people who lap it up, and more power to him. In this sense, Sparks is like a weepy, white Tyler Perry, playing directly into the hands of his audience and raking in the cash for it.
Like his other films, “Safe Haven” is in essence a big-budget movie-of-the-week, something you’d see on Lifetime or broadcast TV back in the TV-movie heyday of the 1980s. The characters are simple and cardboard. They embody stereotypes from the frightened and abused (but adorable) wife to the stoic and honorable single father.
What actually saves “Safe Haven” from being insufferable is the aforementioned diversion from Sparks normal fare. He actually lightens up a bit with this movie, offering a somewhat sweet love story with at least a modicum of genre enjoyability.
Also what helps things along are the film’s stars. Julianne Hough isn’t a great actor – and she fumbles through the obviously improvised moments in the script – but she’s easy on the eyes and glowing with that girl-next-door quality. Opposite her is Josh Duhamel, who brings a healthy dose of charm to the movie. It’s really too bad this guy plays second fiddle to transforming robots and in rom coms rather than being a bona fide movie star.
On the whole, I still wasn’t a fan of “Safe Haven,” but the movie was a massive step up from the previous Nicholas Sparks film, “The Lucky One.”
The Blu-ray comes with a DVD of the film, along with Digital Copy access. Bonus materials include about five minutes of deleted scenes and a mildly different alternate ending. Featurettes include “Igniting the Romance in Safe Haven,” “Josh Duhamel’s Lessons in Crabbing” and a Set Tour. These featurettes are quite self-congratulatory and over-explain the not-quite-nuances of the film’s plot, but as I expect is the case with the movie itself, the fans will love it.