For anyone who has read a Nicholas Sparks’ novel, the latest film adaptation of ‘Safe Haven’ will definitely tug at our heartstrings. Strategically opening on Valentine’s Day was a smart move by the movie distributor Relativity Media. Ladies, leave your boyfriends and husbands at home. They won’t like it. Trust me; you’ll have a better time enjoying this romantic love story with your girlfriends. It is a schmaltzy and predictable story but this is expected from Nicholas Sparks’ prose. It is directed by Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom who was also at the helm of ‘Dear John.’ It’s a ‘chick flick’ with a noirish twist and the predominantly female audience loved every minute of it.
In order to appreciate Hallstrom's talent as a filmmaker requires further examination of his body of work. Some of my favorites include ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,’ ‘Cider House Rules,’ and ‘Chocolat.’ He also directed one of the best romantic dramas of 2011 titled, ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. ‘Safe Haven’ won’t be remembered as one of his best but it presses all the right buttons with its core audience. It is a tear-jerker with two likable lead actors. It takes place in the picturesque coastal town of Southport, North Carolina. Tourism should spike there this summer. It is a gorgeous place to shoot a movie.
The opening sequence shows Kate (Julianne Hough) running away from her dark past. It is a mystery as to what she is running away from but she gets on a bus headed to Atlanta. On the way, the bus makes a pit stop in a quaint seaside town with sandy beaches, seagulls flying around and a general store run by the local hunk, Alex (Dosh Duhamel). You just know these two were meant for each other. Kate decides to stay and not get back on the bus. She gets a job as a waitress at a cozy wooden restaurant without filling out a job application. Who wouldn’t hire her? She is the quintessential girl-next-door. Hough is cute as a button in this role. She’s a likable actress. There is a genuine chemistry between her and Duhamel.
There is a creepy police detective (David Lyons) obsessed with finding Kate’s hide out. He constantly drinks bottled water, sweats, and grimaces through his relentless pursuit. What makes this film different from the other Nicholas Sparks’ dramas is what Kate is running away from. Why is she hiding out? It is a mystery until the third act. There is also a huge zinger at the end of the story. The final twist (no spoilers) will either make you break out the Kleenex or roll your eyes. Sure, it’s mushy but this is why you go to see a Nicholas Sparks’ romance.
The acting is good. Duhamel plays a widower raising two kids. His daughter Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) is cute and precocious but not in an obnoxious way. The kids like Kate. Hough plays the cutest fugitive on the lam. Her compelling performance keeps you interested in the story. She also starred in last year’s panned 80s musical, ‘Rock of Ages.’ She was actually quite good in it as the small-town girl who gets on a bus to Hollywood for fame and fortune. For some reason, her characters always end up on buses. She’s not a bad actress but none of these films have tested her acting range yet. That’s okay. She is fun to watch and a triple-threat (acting, singing and dancing).
‘Safe Haven’ is now available on Blu-ray and DVD http://www.nicholassparks.com/movies/safe-haven.