Nicholas Sparks strikes again!
“Safe Haven” is a predictable, formulaic, romance by the numbers.
When Erin (Julianne Hough) goes on the run after stabbing her abusive husband (in self-defense), she winds up in the small coastal town of Southport, North Carolina. There, she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower and father of two young children who runs the town’s grocery. The two are attracted to each other, but how can she allow herself to be with him, when she’s wanted for murder?
All the while, a Cop back in Boston is relentlessly tracking her down.
Of course, eventually the feelings are too much for Erin and Alex, and they start to fall in love. Erin eases her way into the family, and the community, but will her past catch up with her?
You already know the answer to that if you’ve seen any of the previous films based on Sparks’ novels. “Safe Haven” is certainly not the most original feeling movie in the world, but the target audience for this film isn’t looking for originality, they’re looking for familiarity. Structure to take comfort in. And they’ll find it.
“Safe Haven” follows the Nicholas Sparks formula to a T:
- Two people who want to get together but can’t
- A home that needs repair
- Friendly, helpful, advice dispensing elders
- A canoe ride
- A rainstorm that soaks the lovers at just the right time
- A dangerous ex to add a touch of fear to the proceedings
Aside from being predictable romantic regurgitation, “Safe Haven”‘s two leads, Hough and Duhamel aren’t quite talented or charismatic enough to pull off a film that offers, essentially, nothing except the two of them falling in love. They’re pleasant and photogenic enough, but there just isn’t enough substance to offset the schmaltz. I’m sure hardcore romance movie fans will buy into it, but I wasn’t really feeling enough spark between the two of them to put my cynicism aside and get into the movie.
To top it all off, though, there’s a really… resoundingly ridiculous twist at the end of the film. I wont spoil it here… well, ok. I’ll spoil it here. Those interested can highlight the white text below.
At the beginning of the film, Hough’s character makes a friend when she moves into town. This woman (Coby Smulders) offers her advice about romance, and basically pushes her towards getting involved with Duhamel’s character. At the end of the film, it’s revealed that Smulders’ character was the ghost of Duhamel’s wife, who died of cancer a few years earlier. Hough finds a picture of their family before the mom died, has a flashback and a realization, and suddenly, it’s the romantic version of “The Sixth Sense”.
It was kind of laughable. The funny thing is, I know that the core audience will eat that shit up. LOL. But for those of us who aren’t Nicholas Sparks junkies, it’s a ludicrous capper to a silly little love story. This type of movie is more properly suited for a basic cable original.