Safe Haven

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom

Starring:  Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, David Lyons, Cobie Smulders, Mimi Kirkland, Noah Lomax

Happy belated Valentine’s Day movie-lovers!  On cue, an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks’ novel has hit theaters for those looking for a romantic date movie.  Sparks has brought us such films as The Notebook, Message In A Bottle, Dear John, etc.  Except for The Notebook, which was a phenomenal film, he is generally renowned for somewhat sappy love stories. Sparks takes us back to Southport, North Carolina for his latest love story, Safe Haven.  (Interesting sidebar: aside from Sparks’ films, a number of movies and television shows have been shot in Southport including Dawson’s Creek, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Domestic Disturbance). 

In Safe Haven, Erin Tierney (Julianne Hough) is on the run.  She is bloodied, frantic, crying and trying to escape an abusive situation at the start of the film.  She flees her home of Boston, Massachusetts in the middle of the night on a bus bound for Atlanta, narrowly escaping police officers looking to arrest her.  On the way to Atlanta, Erin stops in Southport, North Carolina and immediately feels a warm vibe from the small town on the water.  She feels safe, and decides to stay there.  She gets a job at a local fish diner, finds a small cabin in the woods to live in and starts a new life as Katie Feldman. 

Alex Wheatley (Josh Duhamel) runs a small market in Southport along with his uncle and two kids Josh (Noah Lomax) and Lexie (Mimi Kirkland).  His wife died of cancer a few years ago.  When Alex meets “Katie” he is immediately smitten.  He tries to win her over but Katie naturally has her guard up.  Eventually, however, good-natured Alex and his cute kids melt the barriers Katie has built around herself and she opens herself up to happiness.  However, a determined Boston cop Kevin (David Lyons) is hellbent on locating Katie and will not rest until he finds her.

In Safe Haven, Julianne Hough turns in one of her best performances to date.  She is the perfect heroine for the tale—infusing her character with nervous energy, a generous sweet disposition and a thirst for normalcy.  Hough and Duhamel also have decent chemistry in the film.  With that being said, this is one long story that we have seen told over and over again from Sleeping With The Enemy to Enough to countless Lifetime and NBC movies of the week.  The key difference, however, is that those films had more excitement and suspense than Safe Haven.  This movie is generally predictable except for a surprise twist at the end of the film.  By that point, I had experienced so many boring lulls that it was difficult for me to muster much excitement. 

This film could have been much more, but Safe Haven simply plays it too safe.  Safe Haven earns a 0.09% rating.  Have a peach martini with this one.