Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I do not own the above image.  For entertainment purposes only.  Copyright Relativity Media and Nicholas Sparks Productions.  All Rights Reserved.

Warning: Major spoiler in the final line.  

                When I recommend a movie, I have no regrets.  No matter what the movie is, whether it be animated (WALL-E, FANTASTIC MR. FOX), action (THE BOURNE ULTIMATIUM, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) or romance (ONCE, THE VOW).  That is, until last week.  SAFE HAVEN is what happens when you listen to me and see THE VOW.
                “Katie” (Julianne “Please Stick to Dancing” Hough) has a problem.  She…did something in her home in Boston.  She needs to flee… a cop who uses his authority terribly…by bus.  “Katie” ends up in…a far off fantasy land where no one digs too deeply about why you are there or who you are, not even if you want a job or rent/buy a cabin.  Or as the movie calls it, North Carolina.  Anyhoo, “Katie” meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower with 2 kids who runs the town’s general store, and falls for him.  But will her past catch up to her?  Can she find peace in Fairytale Land (fine, North Carolina)?  And just who is “Katie’s” mysterious neighbor?
                SAFE HAVEN is yet another Nicholas Sparks novel adapted for the silver screen.  This time, an Oscar nominee is in the director’s chair, Lasse Hallström.  Granted, two of the nominations were over 25 years ago and he hasn’t made a watchable movie since 2000 (CHOCOLAT), but the man at the helm of WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES still has it.  Hallström is a true, natural filmmaker.  However, all Hallström is able to create is the most professionally made Lifetime movie 
ever conceived.
                SAFE HAVEN plays it safe the entire way.  A dead on arrival plot which includes domestic violence, an alcoholic cop, a dreamboat love interest and a dreamlike, brain-dead small town utopia which only used to exist in 1950’s nostalgia films.  The movie starts off far too simple and each new layer is as clichéd as the last.  And each new layer only adds to the story and not to the characters, who end up more wooden than the general store.  Each new layer also contains slight to significant lapses in logic.  For instance, the climatic confrontation can easily viewed by Alex, who is standing on a pier shooting fireworks in the same general direction a few hundred feet away, but is completely oblivious to it until last possible moment.  And I won’t even begin with the shoddy police work by both the Boston police and especially the squad in the small town.
The dialogue varies from the bland to the awful to the truly bizarre.  The aforementioned neighbor, Jo (Cobie Smulders), has the worst of it, saying lines that would be rejected for How I Met Your Mother’s worst episodes.  At one point, Jo asks “Katie” if she is going to be around awhile while “Katie” paints her cabin’s kitchen.
                I’ve seen Josh Duhamel is a few things over the years and he is his usual competent self.  I bet he has millions in the bank (I mean at least one account has to be held jointly with Fergie, right?).  He should take the same acting class as Robert Pattinson I suggested for him a few months ago.  Julianne Hough should stick to her day job, dancing with “stars”.  When asked to look concerned, she half smiles.  When told to memorize lines, she sounds robotic.  And when asked to cry, she appears to be laughing with a frown.  With this & ROCK OF AGES on her resume, only Ryan Seacrest could possibly save her acting career now.
                Undoubtedly, this seems far from the last time that a Sparks novel will be filmed, but please make it stop.  I may not be the intended audience, but I believe that any theatrically released movie should be accessible to anyone at anytime.  Just because it is a love story and I am a male human being (don’t laugh, my wife can back me up on that claim), doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy it.  But I digress: Please, please see SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK for V-Day instead.  For the sake of humanity, see the best love story out there right now!  Not this 115 minute clump of nothing.
                As for the mysterious neighbor’s identity: Let’s just say that you go in expecting to see THE NOTEBOOK and THE SIXTH SENSE breaks out.  Just saying.

* (out of five)

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