Yet another movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, “Safe Haven” is a cliché romance released this Valentine’s Day; a vulnerable woman finds that love will save her. Director Lasse Hallstrom’s beautiful vision makes the film a warm presentation, but its core has as much substance as a mixture of a Lifetime television movie and a greeting card.
Katie (Julianne Hough) flees from an undisclosed, violent event and gets on a bus to anywhere. When she finds herself in a tiny, Southern town, she finds a job and becomes part of the community, including befriending the local market owner and widower father of two, Alex (Josh Duhamel). The two quickly begin to have feelings for each other, but a Boston cop (David Lyons) is tracking Katie after her getaway.
“Safe Haven” competes with itself to be a sappy Hallmark film and a made-for-TV thriller. The obsessive cop is transposed from a horror thriller, always lurking, always following, and inhuman. As the film progresses and his obsession grows, he turns into a monster. Meanwhile, Katie and Alex enjoy all of those cute moments from Nicholas Sparks’ other repetitive stories; they kiss in the rain, enjoy the beach, and have trivial fights. The two plot points that have the potential to be deeply emotional aren’t even fleshed out, those of the replacement mother feeling the kids have and Katie’s past.
Between “Safe Haven” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” Lasse Hallstrom seems to have lost his groove. A man nominated for three Oscars with a string of excellent films on his resume (“Chocolat,” “The Cider House Rules,” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”) should not have fallen this far; his recent films only maintain his gorgeous visuals and he hasn’t had an excellent film in over ten years. He does, however, manage to get acceptable performances from Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, quite a feat.
For those that enjoy Sparks’s work, “Safe Haven” is just the latest of the genre. For those that don’t like movies like “Dear John” and “The Notebook,” avoid “Safe Haven” like the plague. The ending is especially for sappy people that like Sparks’ inspiring, manipulative spirit. For those looking for a fun romance, watch “Warm Bodies” while still in theaters.
Rating for “Safe Haven:” D+
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Safe Haven” is playing at most theaters in Columbus with an abundance of showtimes at Arena Grand and AMC Grove City. For showtimes, click here.