At this point we’ve seen so many Nicholas Sparks adaptations that the formula is nothing more than a handful of producers throwing darts at a spinning wheel of generic directors that will jump at the opportunity to exploit the emotions of females around the globe. Also on that wheel are any remaining unproduced Sparks novel, generic actors/actresses in need of some sort of a quick cash grab and ways you can shoehorn in an incomprehensible plot twist. If SAFE HAVEN does any one thing right for the more testosterone heavy audience it’s the casting a pretty girl and a few explosions- even if they are in the form of fireworks.
The plot for SAFE HAVEN doesn’t seem all that different from any other Sparks film I’ve been to in the many years I’ve taken my SO to a movie on Valentine’s Day. The formula is as such: a character with a shady past meets and falls in love with a sweet unsuspecting character with a heart of gold and lives in a small sleepy town in somewhere in the United States. The rest of the film is filled with the type of stuff that works for a vast majority of girls, most of which may have already read the book in which case one of two things will happen- it doesn’t follow closely enough and they hate it, or they love it because they just love watching the romance. I don’t see a whole lot of wiggle room in terms of the middle ground on these movies.
I always make a note to mention that I am not the key demographic so anyone of the female gender reading this may not care to hear read what I have to say. That being said I still always do what I can to avoid an overall hatred of the film I’m reviewing. Now with that being said I may very well not hate this movie, but I wouldn’t be so bold as to say it’s good. There’s some nice scenery on display and the characters are likeable enough, but the script is generic and everything about it just feels too predictable and boring to offer anything to anyone wanting a deeper experience. This is the type of film for people who want nothing more than to get their goosebumps from men saying the sweetest possible thing to a girl so that they too can fantasize about a man saying those things to her. And the cherry on top is that in the film the girl can fantasize about an impossibly good looking guy wooing her to her heart’s delight. Most guys demand that from their movies and while watching something like SAFE HAVEN are already irritated by the PG-13 rating which robs them of any possibility of seeing someone naked- may not always be the case but as a guy I know a Nicholas Sparks film plays a dominant role in giving women the things that sweep them of their feet, not placate the male fantasy.
Speaking from a female perspective is not my forte, but I can say that from my experience seeing these types of movies with people that enjoy them it seems to get the job done. Granted depending on your date/SO/mistress there may be a bit more reliance on peril than I remember being present in even the last adaptation, THE LUCKY ONE. My memory may not be what it used to be, but there is a great deal of material here that borders in interesting tension, but the directors they hire for these just don’t know how to take those moments and make them last or even milk every bit of interesting conflict from them. SAFE HAVEN even has a bit of a ridiculous plot twist that I’m betting even if you haven’t read the book will guess before the reveal even happens.
Julianne Hough as the lead felt kind of a weak choice outside of her simply being attractive. She seemed little too stiff and hollow delivering her lines and when it came to plot points where you have to feel something for her it didn’t quite hit any high mark. Josh Duhamel seems to constantly be stuck in these thankless romantic interest roles where he does little to sell himself as a dramatic actor but he’s likeable enough to at least make the romance kind of work even when Hough drops the ball- no innuendo intended there. It’s the dynamic with the kids that makes SAFE HAVEN as charming as it is at its best which probably shouldn’t be the case of a romance movie, but given their importance to the Duhamel’s character they worked to help the weaker elements.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m talking down to anyone that likes these movies, because I believe in the freedom to like what you like and not be ridiculed for it. It may not be for me, but I watch them because my wife enjoys them and I’m not too proud to let myself give them a chance. I get as much entertainment as I can from them and it’s usually not a lot, but enough to not feel like I’ve just wasted my time. Expecting nothing from a film that delivers even a few interesting things is far more rewarding than the disappointment I get from movies I look forward to- at the risk of sounding obvious. SAFE HAVEN has a handful of enjoyable aspects that revolve around the charm of the kid characters, scenery and hit and miss romantic aspects. Aside from that I’m afraid that’s about the extent of my own enjoyment from this one.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)