Opening on Valentine’s Day is the new film Safe Haven. Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough lead a cast that includes Cobie Smulders (of How I Met Your Mother fame) and youngsters Noah Lomax and Mimi Kirkland. From the film’s official synopsis:
An affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman’s struggle to love again, Safe Haven is based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author behind the hit films The Notebook and Dear John. When a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this deeply moving romantic thriller.
I’m a single guy, no children, don’t read the books any of these films are based on so to say I’m not exactly the target audience for this film is an understatement. I have seen The Notebook and The Lucky One, but never saw Dear John, A Walk to Remember or any of the other films based in Sparks‘ resume. So that being said, does it really matter what I actually think of this film? Not really because these films seem to have a built in audience and I know my nieces and sisters will eventually watch them whether it’s at the theater or on DVD. And that’s the point of these films/books right? But I do have an opinion so here it is.
Julianne Hough is beautiful and to be honest, I pretty much saw this because of her. What I got was a movie that actually had decent chemistry between two love interests. Hough and Duhamel had believable back and forth with Duhamel really nailing the single dad routine. Not that I thought he was a bad actor or anything, but when I think Duhamel films, I think Transformers and the like. But Duhamel and Hough look good together on screen especially with the mesmerizing North Carolina backdrop. Two good looking people on screen with beautiful ocean side scenery is pretty hard to screw up.
Just like in Footloose, Hough gets a couple of youngsters opposite her. That movie had Maggie Elizabeth Jones, this one has the previously mentioned Noah Lomax and Mimi Kirkland. Kirkland absolutely steals scenes especially in the little store Duhamel runs. Both handle their scenes well for their age and make one credible family. And I will give it up to the producers for not having anyone try doing the Boston accent for the scenes that were supposed to be Boston. They clearly weren’t shot in Boston, but no one makes the terrible attempt at doing an accent no one outside of the area can do.
Of course the film has its flaws. Can you see every plotline coming a mile away? Yes and if you can’t, you weren’t paying attention. Is it clichéd and lovey dovey and a film men will be dragged to by their lady friend? Yes. Is it pretty much every romantic movie made in the past 20 years? Yes, but you probably already know that. Sparks books fly off the shelves when they get released and most of the films go on to make money. They keep making them so clearly people keep watching them. I really want to talk about how badly underused Cobie Smulders is, but I don’t want to give away any “twist” some people might not get (seriously there were a surprising number of oohs in the audience which blows my mind). I like Smulders and wish she had more screen time, but I understand why she doesn't.
Being released on Valentine’s Day will get the film the “date” money. Couples will go see it after dinner and eat popcorn with their significant other. Sure it’s a gimmick, but it’ll work. With a built in fan base around Sparks and Hough having a large number of fans from her Dancing with the Stars days, Safe Haven will probably do well at the box office. Will it shatter the romance movie mold? No way, but expect another one this time next year.