Safe Haven (*½) - AwardsCircuit.com - By Clayton Davis

Safe Haven (*½)

Nicholas Sparks strikes again, and it's as bad as you'd expect...

safe_havenDespite it being the only thing I actually want to talk about in regard to ‘Safe Haven’, I promise not to spoil the twist that wraps up the conclusion of this latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Honestly, this film is just like all of the other movies made out of Sparks’ books, with the exception of ‘The Notebook’. It’s sappy, wastes the few talented performers that it does wrangle up, embarrasses the less talent actors and actresses hired for their looks, hasn’t met a cliche it didn’t like, and solely wants to elicit tears from female audience members. While not as bas as last year’s ‘The Lucky One’, this is a poor enough movie in its own right. That twist though…god I want to talk about it! I will say this though, it made me literally cackle and howl with laughter, and it’s safe to say that director Lasse Hallström wasn’t looking for that. I can only assume that neither were writers Leslie Bohem and Dana Stevens, but here we are anyway. The movie obviously has its appeal and more or less is critic proof, but that still doesn’t excuse its cinematic failings. This is the type of Valentine’s Day offering that breaks up relationships due to being forced to endure it. Take my advice and don’t subject your loved one to this drivel.

We first meet Katie (Julianna Hough) as she runs from a home a bloody mess. After quickly seeking help from a neighbor, she changes her hair color, chops some of it off, and evades a cop on her tale (David Lyons) at the bus station. Managing not to be spotted, she hops a bus from Boston down south seeking, yes…a safe haven. No sooner does she get there than she spots attractive single father Alex (Josh Duhamel). Katie sets up shop in a house deep in the woods, though she quickly makes a friend in fellow forrest dweller Jo (Cobie Smulders). She keeps running into Josh though. He’s smitten with her, and before long she’s hanging out with him and his young children Josh (Noah Lomax) and Lexie (Mimi Kirkland). Things seem ideal, and romance begins to bloom, but that cop is still looking for Katie. He’s obsessed with finding her, for reasons that are easily guessed but still kept a secret for far too long. Everything comes together nicely (if you can call it that) with one scene left to go, and then…holy crap! I still won’t reveal the twist, but it’s a special one, I promise.

safe_haven imageJulianna Hough seems like a nice girl, and she’s certainly easy on the eyes, but I’ve yet to see any evidence that she can act. Hough isn’t annoyingly bad, but she clearly isn’t a talented thespian. She gives it her all, but aside from looking the part of her character, she does nothing to make you interested in her. Josh Duhamel gets by on charm, but more often than not he’s in the same boat as Hough is. He’s decent enough here, but no one is going to be singing his praises. I’ve grown to like Cobie Smulders when I catch her on ‘How I Met Your Mother’, but here she’s utterly wasted. The child actors Mimi Kirkland and Noah Lomax are about what you’d expect, and the less said about David Lyons, the better. The acting didn’t do a thing for me here, but I’ve still seen worse in flicks based on Sparks novels. This is still bottom tier however.

Once upon a time, I remember Lasse Hallström being a filmmaker who crafted Oscar bait. Now, his films seem better suited as actual bait. He’s a Sparks expert by now, and I’m quickly losing what respect I previously had for him. He desperately wants to convey the romantic tingling that these books are said to elicit in its fans, but he’s completely incapable of doing that. To be fair, some of his shots are pretty, but they’re vapid too. He’s not helped by the script that Leslie Bohem and Dana Stevens, but I really think that Hallström is wasting himself here. The same goes for Stevens, who once penned a near great sports flick (For Love of the Game), but now is content to put her name on this junk. It’s as predictable a movie as you’ll likely see this year, and it never manages to become enjoyable melodrama. It just sits there and then invites mockery due to the aforementioned twist.

I’m quite proud of myself for not spoiling what made me not avoid ‘Safe Haven’ in the first place, but I think I’m ready to call it quits on Sparks adaptations from now on. ‘The Notebook’ was a fluke, and they all seem to be like this one, so they’re just not worth my time. If you do wind up seeing this film, please only do it to see the twist I so desperately wanted to talk about. No other element of this movie is worth its salt. I’d never advise looking up a movie for its twist in order to avoid seeing it, but I’m certainly tempted to here…

-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

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When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 200 and 300 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Internet Film Critics Association as well. Today the IFCA, tomorrow the world!

  • Holden

    Just read what the twist was. What a load of horse crap.

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      That was my working title for the review, actually…

  • Patrick Murray

    Had to watch this for the girl I was seeing. The best part of the movie was when she said, and I quote, “OMG I loved it! It was so good!” This was terrible, and the twist was just absurd, but I cannot say that I was expecting much different from Nicholas Sparks.

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      It is more or less par for the course in terms of Sparks…

  • JamDenTel

    The fact that Cobie Smulders is a far more compelling actress than Julianne Hough really doesn’t help. And Lasse Halstrom really should’ve known better (I actually liked Salmon Fishing myself).

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      Agreed…

  • Jessie Makowski

    It’s the same Sparks formula, but the end cheapens it for intelligent romantic comedy audiences everywhere!

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      Sounds about right to me…

  • Kim

    Is it worse than Dear John?

    • http://TheAwardsCircuit Joey Magidson

      Just about…