Safe Haven (2013)
For a solid two acts, I couldn’t hate Safe Haven, the latest in the bland, paint-by-numbers coastal romances based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. It was chiefly inoffensive but predictable at every step, but I didn’t mind. At this point, Sparks is a brand and you know what you’re getting. Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages) plays a woman on the run from a corrupt Boston cop. She may or may not have killed a man. She hides out in a North Carolina fishing village and comes to love a hunky widower (Josh Duhamel) with a pair of annoying kids. Their coupling is somewhat restrained given the sudsy context; they don’t kiss until close to an hour in. What benefited the film was having a dangerous external threat, the corrupt cop, circling in. This alone raised the stakes of what ordinarily would be a pleasant but mostly mild romance between two pretty people. However, it is that third act, the concluding half hour, where Safe Haven just loses its mind. One twist is a given, though it makes the Boston PD look either incompetent or collusive, but the final twist comes out of nowhere, bringing in a supernatural factor that left me gob smacked. All I kept repeating was, “What?” It’s such a contrived, immediately stupid twist ending, trying to bridge a simple romance with something like The Sixth Sense. I can’t say whether the twist existed in Sparks’ source material, but wherever it originated, I can predict you won’t find a dumber twist ending to a film all year. Safe Haven is two parts of a good-looking albeit mediocre movie with a final dash of half-baked lunacy.
Nate’s Grade: C-