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'Safe Haven' Plays it Safe

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 11:02

Safe Haven
Starring Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Irene Ziegler, Jon Kohler
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Rated PG-13
Opens Thursday
Grade: C+

As it is with most Nicholas Sparks film adaptations, “Safe Haven” is a love story of two broken souls, Alex and Katie, who find solace in one another but not without overcoming a tremendous challenge that brings them closer together.

When the mysterious and beautiful Katie (Julianne Hough) lands in the small town of Southport North Carolina, she instantly catches the eye of the Alex (Josh Duhamel), the small-time shop owner and widowed father of two.

When Alex tries to befriend Katie, her defenses come up and it is apparent she is reluctant to create any relationships in this new town. However, after a few encounters and a series of events, Katie is able to create two very special bonds. One is with Alex and his two kids, and the second is with her pushy but well-meaning neighbor, Jo.

As Alex and Katie build a relationship, the movie switches to flashbacks from Katie’s life before Seaport that hone into her mysterious past. It’s also revealed a cop from her old town is looking for her. There is a lot about Katie that’s unknown, and when Alex begins to uncover her secrets he struggles to trust her. But love conquers all, don’t you know? So instead of letting her run, he promises to keep her safe. A good thing, too, because soon, he’ll have to.

The chemistry between Hough and Duhamel is effortless, undeniable and so hot that halfway through the movie you are just rooting for them to make out. Though this was one of Hough’s first leading roles in a film (“Footloose” doesn’t really count), she was able to give depth and bring emotion out of character better than expected. Still, the acting in this film is a bit shallow – and, dare I say, cheesy? If it wasn’t for the real chemistry between the two actors, the movie would be a complete bore.

At first glance, “Safe Haven” appears to be the typical Nicholas Sparks love story--and well it is. Love comes to fruition despite the obstacles placed in its way, but just when you think you’ve seen this somewhere before the writer throws in a surprising twist that will make your jaw drop. And  in true Nicholas Sparks for, he'll make you bust out the tissues.

The movie is a far cry from Spark's claim to fame, “The Notebook," and the caliber of the acting isn’t quite as high. Despite the surprising twist at the end, "Safe Haven" is a predictable love story, but still an enjoyable and certified, grade-A “chick flick.”  

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