Honesty hour: I dreaded seeing Safe Haven because I knew I wouldn’t like it. Who would? Blah blah Nicholas Sparks yadda yadda Valentine’s Day. It still looked bad. My low expectations must have helped it, because I actually liked it. Kind of.
I would never rave about how good the movie is or how cute Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel are together or how heartbreaking the ending is, because none of those things are true. Nor would I recommend the movie to anyone without a slippery ulterior motive. But watching this movie is like watching a toddler take its first wobbly steps. You know it won’t get anywhere and you expect it to stumble and fall, but its efforts are so endearing you can’t help but giggle at its innocence.
Super mysterious Katie (Hough) shows up at seaside pit stop Southport to begin her life anew after troubles with her psycho partner David (Kevin Tierney) chase her out of the city. She meets recent widower Alex (Duhamel) at his cheap, flammable convenient store that he runs with the help of his two kids, chubby-cheeked snotball Josh (Noah Lomax) and really stupid Lexi (Mimi Kirkland). As anyone could predict Katie and Alex spark a romantic interest in each other, but Katie pushes him away because of her #SuperConfusingMysteriousEdgy past.
Not for long! The middle of the movie slogs on as the writers struggle to come up with adorably unrealistic events to bring the two together. Hough and Duhamel experiment with finding new ways to flirtatiously smile at each other to keep things fresh. Meanwhile, nothing else happens.
But wait! There’s a totally crazy plot twist when Katie’s crazed ex somehow tracks her to Southport! It’s not like the writers beat the “okay we get it he’s hunting her down” subplot to death. He shows up to reclaim his ex and Katie has to find her safe haven and stuff.
I laughed a lot watching Safe Haven. At first it was an occasional sympathetic giggle, because the opening fifteen minutes are really bad. Then I got a little angry at it, but soon I was cackling along with the movie. It warmed me up and tricked me into liking it. To a certain degree, at least. It was pretty funny and didn’t even hammer the safe haven theme into our heads like I expected it to. It tried really hard to be good. A for effort.
No matter how hard pop culture media tries to convince me I will never believe that Julianne Hough is a star. Meanwhile Duhamel is one of those actors who everyone knows about but no one ever mentions as one of their favorites. The movie offered very little evidence to improve either reputation, mainly because of the hideous dialogue they had to work with. The screenplay (written by Gage Lanksy and Dane Stevens) aspired to be a picturesque window into Katie’s daily life in Southport complete with pointless small talk and neighborly hellos, but these ‘normal’ moments came across as time-wasting distractions from the movie’s already saturated story. We’re supposed to relate to Katie, but are instead provided with a few extra minutes of Julianne Hough timidly finding the least-stupid way to deliver these pulpy lines.
The movie’s climax and ending would have been pretty good if they consisted of anything in addition to the melodrama. The flimsy story doesn’t warrant a twist ending, especially a clever but overall disposable one. The movie wasn’t more enjoyable because of it. I’m guessing we have Nicholas Sparks getting carried away with his story to blame for this one.
Don’t see Safe Haven. It’s enjoyable but in a sympathetic, borderline condescending way. The only entertainment you’ll get from it is unintentional.