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Safe Haven
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by Jaycie

"Their love can overcome anything. Or whatever."
1 stars

After sitting through all two hours of this movie, it's a miracle I can muster the energy to justify my contempt for it. Or even to feel contempt for it. But I sure don't feel anything else.

Safe Haven is the third Sparks movie I've reviewed, and by far the laziest. While you can at least call its predecessors "movies," this was more like a checklist of necessary scenes, down to Deep Conversation During Canoe Ride, Rainstorm, Random Slow Dance, and Making Out Up Against a Tree - in that order. It aims to accomplish the exact same thing as the others, by which I mean generating extra revenue for Kleenex and Haagen-Dazs, but it won't elicit so much as a sniffle from even the softest-hearted housewives. Everyone involved just didn't care about their craft, and neither will you.

You wouldn't know that from the opening, with Katie (Julianne Hough) making a genuinely dramatic escape on a bus from her hometown of Boston while her abusive alcoholic asshole husband/cop, Kevin (David Lyons), chases after her and misses. She gets off the bus in coastal North Carolina and, it is implied, stays there because general store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel) is cute. Within two days, Katie has a job, a rental house and a neighbour, Jo (Cobie Smulders), who has no purpose as a character except to offer her sage relationship advice. The new widowed boyfriend comes one boring week later along with his two kids, Josh and Lexie (Noah Lomax and Mimi Kirkland), and all is canoes and cookouts until Kevin tracks Katie down under the most improbable circumstances possible.

Despite a promising start, Safe Haven plods along with a sense of obligation: Nobody, least of all director Lasse Hallstrom, seems to know who or what this movie is for other than their own paychecks. Some of his scenes, most notably the glimpses of Katie's past, work well enough on their own, but are dropped into the narrative so haphazardly that you wonder if he used up all of his creativity on the flashbacks alone. He certainly didn't expend much on the camera work, at least when there was no sunset-drenched coastline to sweep over. Remember how Chocolat made you run as fast as your legs could carry you to 7-Eleven for a Jersey Milk? Safe Haven will make you do the same, but only so you have enough sugar in your system to stay awake.

The lead performances have the same resigned tone. Neither Duhamel nor Hough is renowned for their wide-ranging talent, but they're not even trying here; they approach their roles the way 13-year-old boys approach taking out the trash. Hough doesn't even take her most emotional scenes seriously, at best letting her mouth hang open an extra half-inch when she's supposed to be afraid, while Duhamel ekes out every line as if his throat is full of spackling paste. Together, they share all the chemistry of your last two single friends going on a bad blind date just to keep you quiet. But they look good enough for the near-kiss poster, so who cares if they can, you know, ACT?

As for the others, Lyons fares a bit better at the legitimate psycho his character turns out to be; I took the liberty of reading the book version of Safe Haven before seeing the movie, and I can almost believe Lyons is running the same crazy, repetitive inner monologue through his mind as his counterpart on paper, although not with nearly enough detail to make Kevin more than a Lifetime villain. Smulders is her old reliable self, but the true purpose of her presence, revealed at the end of the movie, is so infuriatingly stupid and pointless that you'll need to binge on How I Met Your Mother reruns for days to wash it out of your mind. By far the best actor with anything worthwhile to do is its youngest: Kirkland was eight or nine years old at the time of shooting and is absolutely adorable, while Lomax is convincing but unmemorable as a stock prepubescent brat who gets over himself at lightning speed. Despite their better efforts, their characters are two-thirds-dimensional at their strongest moments. Actually, I shouldn't say "characters"; Sparks movies don't have secondary characters, just plot devices with feet.

If you think small-town North Carolina is a safe haven, you are wrong. There's a bland white couple around every corner, just waiting to punch you in the tear ducts with their pure and true love. Or, in this case, to suffocate you with their nonchalance. Either way, RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22547&reviewer=432
originally posted: 10/25/15 18:11:01
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  14-Feb-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-May-2013


  DVD: 07-May-2013

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