Katie (Julianne Hough) is a damaged woman on the run from a sinister past that may or may not have included a murder. Alex (Josh Duhamel) is a single Father still mourning the death of his wife just a few years before. When Katie gets off the bus in Alex’s sleepy little North Carolina seaport, the sparks quickly fly and soon the two are chasing away their mutual demons by falling in sun-dappled love with each other. Alas, the bliss cannot last forever and it’s not long before Katie’s past is catching up with her and revealing the truth about what she left behind in Boston. Will the strength of their newfound love be enough to carry Katie and Alex through the spilling of ugly secrets? Well, this film was adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel and it’s being released on Valentine’s Day so it’s probably not much of a spoiler to say yes – yes it is.
As someone who takes great pride in saying that I’ve never cried once during The Notebook (but oh have I laughed!) and loves to make fun of every lunk-headed Nicholas Sparks adaptation that hits the movie screen, it pains me to admit that Safe Haven is genuinely not bad . Sure, it’s still a whole bunch of romantic sap that will probably kill a few of your brain cells while you’re watching. And in true Sparks-ian tradition it suffers from the idea that women are beautiful, fragile creatures who need to be saved by the perfect (read: six-packed, shirtless, sweaty and preferably lifting something heavy) blue collar dude with the 1000-watt smile and a strong conviction that romantic canoe rides and dancing in rainstorms are just so meaningful…yet somehow none of this made me want to heave into my popcorn bag.
I give a lot of credit to the film being smartly cast with Hough and Duhamel who are the epitome of the sort of actors that should people these types of films. Each have the romance movie trifecta of being pleasant to watch, pretty to look at and charming in a relatable non-Hollywood way. They also have good chemistry which is obviously the most important factor in a movie that hinges on believing that these two people could weather whatever overdramatic nonsense Sparks throws their way. And yes, the overdramatic nonsense, including an eleventh-hour twist that’s truly laughable, is as abundant and heavy-handed as ever.
Is Safe Haven Opening Weekend Worthy?
For fans of the works of Nicholas Sparks: yes, absolutely. Gather your preferred sighing/weeping partners, load up on candy and get thee to the theatre. You simply haven’t lived until you’ve seen the North Carolina sun reflect off Josh Duhamel’s pecs. For those who find themselves dragged unwillingly to see this as part of some cruel Valentine’s Day ritual: it could be much, much worse. Take comfort in the lovely seaside scenery and the fact that at least this isn’t the one that stars Miley Cyrus because quite frankly, there’s no safe haven from that.
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