The yearly Nicholas Sparks book-turned-movie has arrived with “Safe Haven.” After the success of “The Notebook” and “Dear John”, Hollywood is churning out these moneymakers as quickly as possible. “Safe Haven” is Sparks’ attempt at shying away from the tragic romance plot and moving into a much more thrilling romance roller coaster.
The story follows Katie (Julianne Hough), who is running from her past and possibly a murder. After a long bus ride down the East Coast, she makes a permanent pit stop in Southport, N.C. The state’s coast is familiar to every Sparks moviegoer, and it always adds a touch of romanticism to the often overly contrived plot.
The movie slows while Katie is in Southport. She tries not to make any friends and shies away from her feelings for Alex (Josh Duhamel). The only thing moving the plot along is the Boston cop (David Lyons) who is hot on Katie’s trail. Although the reason behind such a forceful search remains vague throughout most of the film, the reveal is a jaw-dropper.
The performances are mostly good. Duhamel (“Transformers”) and Lyons (NBC’s “Revolution”) definitely outshine Hough (“Rock of Ages”) who seems stiff at times, perhaps due to a lack of experience. Duhamel has this way of making her better and the chemistry between them is undeniable. He is in his natural element in this role as the charming hunk vying for Katie’s heart.
The biggest surprise is, the movie isn’t all that bad. The last half-hour moves at a break-neck speed as Katie’s past violently confronts her present. It makes you wish Sparks would write more of this type of romance rather than just the sappy love story; this story’s translation to film is much more satisfying. Dive Verdict: ?????
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