Movie Reviews

‘Safe Haven’: Pretty, safe and not much else

By Azim AzmanMovies - 21 February 2013 9:00 AM

‘Safe Haven’: Pretty, safe and not much else

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

For the uninitiated, a Nicholas Sparks movie can be spotted from miles away via its poster. A beautiful couple is always featured prominently in a tender moment.

In the movie this moment is reached only after overcoming some sort of emotional obstacle; because you know, love conquers all things. 

This particular Sparks movie stars the nicely tanned Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough and the actress who will probably be forever known as ‘Robin Scherbatsky’ – Cobie Smulders. Aptly enough the movie is released just in time for the unofficial month of love that is February.

We are introduced to Julianne Hough’s character at the start of the movie via dark flashes. It turns out that she is running away from an abusive husband who is a cop with an alcohol addiction.

‘Safe Haven’ trailer

She ends up in the sleepy and picturesque town of Southport, North Carolina, where she introduces herself as Katie and tries to starts afresh. Her scars and fears cause her to initially avoid contact with the rest of the townsfolk. Of course she eventually lets down her guard after the local widower heartthrob tries to woo her. Alex Wheatley (Josh Duhammel) eventually breaks down Katie’s barriers via a combination of clumsy charm, a fixed up bicycle and his adorable children. Their romance is facilitated by the warm embracing town which she has found herself in.

Of course, with all these type of movies, Katie’s past catches up with her in the form of her drunk and abusive husband. Kevin Tierney (David Lyons; ‘E.R.’, ‘Eat Pray Love’) comes barreling into Southport looking to reclaim what he thinks is rightfully his.

Unfortunately for him, his wife is no longer afraid of to stand up to his abusive ways. We are to believe of course this new found spirit is because she has been emboldened by her new found love

‘Safe Haven’ is obviously not aiming for the cerebral or the action fans. It being a Nicholas Sparks should be enough of a warning to those among you who are allergic to schmaltz, romance or anything of that sort.

It takes the tried and trusted formula of making a film in a picturesque location, using a good looking cast and carrying a plot re-hashed so many times they can’t possibly get it wrong.

Except that the director did. The film is directed by academy award winner Lasse Hallström but the muscle which brought him his Oscars must have atrophied because the plot and pacing of the movie is patchy – and we’re being kind here. You are literally thrown from one scene to another with only a threadbare plot connecting each of the scenes.

The Cobie Smulders character for example, is like an aftermarket spoiler on a Japanese saloon – looks good but serves absolutely no purpose. Besides the small revelation at the END of the movie, she just wafts in and out in a couple of scenes with very little effect or purpose at all.

Julianne Hough – also known as Mrs. Ryan Seacrest – is absolutely gorgeous in every scene, including a gratuitous shot of her in a bikini. She is in real-life a professional ballroom dancer and country singer so she is no doubt a talented lady capable of becoming a major star – just not on the back of this movie though.

She is supposed to portray a conflicted person who is tortured by her past but all she managed to convey was “meh”. Hough warmed up genuinely while in a scene playing with Alex’s adorable daughter, but did not replicate the same acting chops elsewhere.

Josh Duhamel was well, Josh Duhamel. He did not have to stretch his acting muscles very much but he did take off his shirt to reveal his actual muscles. So that’ll keep the ladies happy, we think.

At the end of the movie though, couples walked out of cinema hand in hand, no doubt entranced by the schmaltzy romantic magic that only Nicholas Sparks can conjure. We think one or two might have been wiping tears away from their eyes, so perhaps in that sense the movie did serve its purpose.

‘Safe Haven’ opens in theatres 21 January 2013