Surprise surprise. The latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven is almost exactly as bad as his previous batch of films. Only this time director Lasse Hallström drops a “twist” ending on us that just might take the cake for dumbest scene of 2013. Safe Haven is mostly a beat-for-beat remake of Sparks’ most successful (and best film adaptation) The Notebook, but with less convincing acting by the mostly talentless Josh Duhamel and the sort of lifeless Julianne Hough. Together the two make for a typical cookie-cutter couple that will test your patience from the very first second they make eye contact.
Katie (Julianne Hough) has a troubled past. One that is constantly referenced in flashbacks and whenever someone brings up a normal topic in conversation. She’s almost instantly sent into a cold freeze when questions surrounding her past come out, which basically means she has problems meeting new people and making new friends. She’s currently on the move, escaping some sort of dangerous past that involves abuse and possibly death.
She settles in a small town, which just so happens to have a single father (Alex, played by Josh Duhamel) that’s attempting to raise his two children alone after his wife lost a battle with cancer just a few short years ago.
I know what you’re thinking; yes, this is typical Nicholas Sparks material. The material is in fact so Nicholas Sparks safe that it rarely tries to break the mold that he’s created with so many of his novels. It often-times feels like another film of his, more specifically The Notebook.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved The Notebook and I’ll stand by that film for as long as I watch movies, but I just can’t get behind something that’s so similar, yet yields such a different result.
Safe Haven fails to capture that spark that made The Notebook defy the genre. Where Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams boldly tested our emotions and to some extent or feelings towards these usually mushy affairs Safe Haven simply tries to re-harness that energy, but with much less success. The reason for that is because Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough just aren’t as good of actors and director Lasse Hallström isn’t Nick Cassavetes.
It shows in the direction, it shows in the acting and it certainly shows in the story too. Everything’s lacking that sincere feeling of true love forming right in front of our eyes. It’s just too forcefully pushed out onto the screen. Ladies might give in because they’re looking for something to take the boyfriend to around Valentine’s Day, but if you actually stop and think about the film you’ll quickly realize how similar it is to virtually every other Nicholas Sparks film adaptation. He’s gotten to the point where his material is so diluted and broken down that it’s essentially the same story, but with locations and characters swapped out.
There’s always going to be one of the two leads running from a troubled past and looking for something better. And then there’s the other lead that’s usually a person suffering from a loss or a recent breakup. The time frame for these two people to meet at random and fall madly in love seems to get shorter and shorter, which makes the whole thing that much harder to get behind.
Josh Duhamel continues to play the “dreamy” man-idiot that just can’t seem to talk to the ladies. His role of Alex is incredibly under-written and almost relies completely on the whole “my wife died of cancer feel bad for me” guilt trip. He’s a nice guy and all, but he’s a complete airhead that resorts to complimenting rice as a pickup line.
Julianne Hough makes it that much worse as Katie. Her back-story is pretty obvious from the get go and she does not a single thing to make you actually want to find out more about her character. She’s a very good-looking actress that more than looks the part, but when it comes to getting into the thicker material she sinks like a stone.
Still, both performers could have breathed a little more life into the roles. Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams didn’t have as many problems in The Vow and even though I disliked The Lucky One slightly more than this I’d still give major credit to Zac Efron for making me semi-interested in learning more about his character’s back-story.
Hough’s got nothing interesting to reveal and Duhamel doesn’t really seem all that interested in hearing about it anyways. It’s a double negative that does not cancel out to make a positive.
What makes matters worse is the bullshit ending that I will not spoil, but I will comment on. This sets an all-time low for ending a Sparks film that even I was shocked to see. I had a bad feeling that the film was steering in this particular direction ever since a certain character was introduced, and sadly and very obviously it closes on this note, causing some girls in my audience to actually leave the theater confused, while I sat there laughing my head off.
I was almost offended by how bad it was, but then I couldn’t stop laughing. It almost makes the film worth a watch, if only to see just how bad these films have actually gotten.
I doubt most looking for the next romantic love story will find this one any worse than Sparks’ previous efforts, but I do think that people should be noticing a trend of similarities between the stories. Is the problem simply a matter of audiences not caring that they’re paying to be fed the same thing over and over? I find it hard to believe that people actively look forward to something like this and instead use it as an easy way to get a date night going.
I beg of you to not see this if you care about where your money is going, because by supporting this flimsy film you’re essentially telling the studios to make more and without any thought.
Safe Haven – 6/10