** (out of 5)
February 14, 2013
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
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Here I sit, writing a review for the latest Nicholas Sparks movie and handing it a lower rating than the latest “Die Hard” film, which I kinda sorta liked. I know I’m being more forgiving to “A Good Day to Die Hard” because I like mindless action films and the franchise as a whole. Conversely, I am endlessly irritated and disinterested in anything that has Nicholas Sparks’ name attached to it.
I suppose the only way to truly resolve this conflict is for Nicholas Sparks to write the sixth “Die Hard” film, presumably titled: “By the End, a Main Character Will Die Hard.”
All joking aside, the reality is that while “Safe Haven” and “A Good Day to Die Hard” are not cut from the same cloth, they use similar patterns. They are made for a very specific genre audience – weepy romances for the former and explosive action for the latter. Neither one does anything particularly unique, following a formula that isn’t exactly a state secret.
But like I said, I like the “Die Hard” films and generally hate Nicholas Sparks’ movies, so this one gets a lesser rating.
“Safe Haven” is about a woman named Katie (Julianne Hough), who flees Boston in the middle of the night after a traumatic experience. She settles in a sleepy North Carolina coastal town and ends up falling in love with the local shop-keeper (Josh Duhamel), who happens to be 1) fiercely good looking, 2) a widower and 3) the father of two adorable children. Of course, Katie’s possibly criminal past from Boston threatens to find her and bring danger to her small town.
Even with respected director Lasse Hallström at the helm, “Safe Haven” is as much a ludicrous love story as any of Sparks’ other movies. While the film departs from the standard formula at times, sometimes in an unintentionally hilarious sense, it still ends up being the same movie we’ve seen time and again. I’m guessing that Hallström had less autonomy since the film was made under the umbrella of “Nicholas Sparks Productions” and has the writer as a producer. It seems clear that Sparks is setting himself up to be the white, weepy Tyler Perry of the romance genre.
There’s plenty of minor problems with the film, including an inordinate amount of scenes with people emotionally running their fingers through their hair, a colossal misunderstanding of police and legal proceedings, and the perception of Boston’s police department being about the size of my living room. But these aren’t what makes the movie bad.
Similarly, as stars, Hough and Duhamel aren’t the problem either. They are both quite nice to look at and very likeable on screen. They have a decent amount of chemistry, and the best moments are when they are just given a scene to be together in. Unfortunately, these scenes have almost nothing to do with the plot, so the best scenes are essentially extraneous to the film itself.
The problem with “Safe Haven” is it’s such a silly and predictable premise that it leaves nothing to the imagination. It has one of the most nonsensical twists near the end of the film and jumps from scene to scene, often resolving character issues with little or no explanation. In short, it’s lazy writing, even worse than Sparks’ last film, “The Lucky One” from 2012.
Still, the fans of Nicholas Sparks movies are going to eat this up like a fat kid at a sundae bar. The core audience who bring tissues to the movie theater because they can’t wait to have a good cry will adore the film. I didn’t, chuckling and rolling my eyes through most of it, much to the chagrin of the weeping ladies around me.
So, see the film if you love this kind of paint-by-numbers Hallmark romance that ranges from the dull to the ridiculous. But please, don’t drag your significant other with you to it.