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'Safe Haven' Movie Review

About.com Rating 1.5 Star Rating

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Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough in 'Safe Haven'

Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough in 'Safe Haven'

© Relativity Media
Just when you think a Nicholas Sparks film adaptation can't get any sappier, along comes Safe Haven, a romantic drama that's set a new bar for Sparks-inspired sappiness. If you believe you're in for another The Notebook, think again. This is the anti-Notebook, a film that shares only the author in common with that romantic tale.
With Safe Haven, audiences looking for a sweet love story are instead served up one of the hokiest love stories of the decade. The set-up's ridiculous (and done much better in Sleeping with the Enemy starring Julia Roberts) and the characters are of the one-dimensional variety taken to an extreme level. Character development is non-existent, realism is given a day off, and there's absolutely no doubt in my mind you could chop out 45 minutes of the running time without losing anything worthwhile.

Julianne Hough (Footloose) plays the wife of an abusive cop who goes on the run, assuming a new identity and landing in the picturesque little town of Southport. There, she lands a job (super easy by the way, despite a lack of ID) at a pretty little seaside restaurant and finds an isolated house to move into. After a few days of being nasty to the model-handsome local grocery store owner (Josh Duhamel) when he attempts to court her, she gives in and proceeds to fall head-over-heels for the widowed father of two. His kids are adorable - one loves her immediately, the other is still in mourning for his mom who died of cancer. The crotchety old guy who works in the store is also adorable, encouraging the relationship. Everything about this little romance is just too adorable for words. Pardon me if I don't fall for it's way-too-calculating charms.

But then...dum da de dum...all hell breaks loose. It's discovered Katie is carting around a planeload full of baggage. And that policeman husband? He's a loose cannon with a gun and a desire to kill what he can't have. What will happen? Will our heroes wind up together or will the bad guy prevail? And will you care by the time the third act comes around? Only if you've never seen any romantic drama/Nicholas Sparks movie. There can't possibly be any other reason to stick with this movie to the end.

Duhamel and Hough are attractive and there's even a scene at the beach in which Hough plays around in a bikini, a bikini that appears and disappears over the course of the scene. It also is a dreary day that suddenly becomes sunny when Hough's in her bikini. Continuity? What's that? Was the Hough bikini sequence a reshoot? An afterthought? Who knows, and more to the point, who cares?

As for Cobie Smulders (normally a joy to watch on the big or small screen), she's completely wasted playing a character whose arc includes a ludicrous twist that wants to be one of those gotcha moments but falls flat because you see it coming a mile away.

Director Lasse Hallstrom also helmed Dear John, another romantic drama based on a Nicholas Sparks book. This film makes Dear John look Academy Award-worthy. This is not the perfect date night film it's being advertised to be. Unless, that is, your idea of a date night is to spend two hours watching people behave as they only do in romance novels and bad movies.

GRADE: D

Safe Haven was directed by Lasse Hallstrom and is rated PG-13 for thematic material involving threatening behavior, and for violence and sexuality.

Theatrical Release: February 14, 2013

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