Safe Haven is an overwrought romance-drama that hits similar chords from the other Nicholas Sparks’ movie adaptations with a bit of a suspense wrinkle thrown in. Even taking the romantic angle aside, the movie is very predictable.
Genre(s): Romance, Drama, Suspense
Fox | PG13 – 116 min. – $39.99 | May 7, 2013
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Writer(s): Nicholas Sparks (novel); Dana Stevens and Gage Lansky (screenplay)
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, Cobie Smulders, David Lyons
Theatrical Release Date: February 13, 2013
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 35.8 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 1.75/5
There’s no author writing today that turns women’s hearts into butter than Nicholas Sparks. There’s also no other author who seems to get his novels adapted for the big screen like Sparks either. Safe Haven is the eighth movie based on one of his books and while the others have certainly been sappy, and to this day I will admit to actually enjoying The Notebook, they also tend to heavily rely on coincidences and sheer luck.
The movie actually opens quite positively in Boston as we see a petrified young woman named Katie (JULIANNE HOUGH) running from somebody, frantically knocking on a neighbor’s door. We then cut to Katie at a bus depot quickly buying a ticket just as the police arrive, including a detective (played by Cole Hauser lookalike DAVID LYONS). She manages to get on a bus headed south for Atlanta and after several stops, she gets off at a small town called Southport, North Caroline which apparently was also the setting for the horror movie, I Know What You Did Last Summer.
In Southport, during the pit stop, Katie decides this is as good of a place to stay with beautiful water views and nice townsfolk which includes single father of two, Alex (JOSH DUHAMEL), and here’s a shocker: his wife passed away from cancer a few years back. Of course, while their first meeting shows some sparks, Katie wants to be left alone and lay low. She gets a job waitressing and finds a sheik bungalow out in the middle of nowhere with only one neighbor, Jo (COBIE SMULDERS), living close by. Alex attempts to get closer, especially since Katie has bonded with his daughter, by building a bike out of spare parts. At first she rebuffs his advances only to come around again.
Back in Boston, our thorough detective continues his investigation of some sort of crime, which we see in spurts through Katie’s nightmares, interviewing neighbors and reviewing bus station security footage in the hopes of tracking the young woman down. He later issues a bulletin that she is wanted for murder! And wouldn’t you know it, this bulletin is posted at the local Southport police station; it was conveniently covered by another poster.
Meanwhile, Alex and Katie grow closer and, wouldn’t you know it, begin to fall in love. As in any Nicholas Sparks adaptation, there’s got to be a rainstorm and Safe Haven is no different as they get caught in a torrential downpour while canoeing. They manage to find shelter at a hole in the wall diner/bar and begin dancing to a radio song and, after Alex’s sheriff friend picks them up, drops off at her place where the pair share a passionate kiss.
All is bliss between this budding couple, right? Well, not so much as the detective begins to get closer in an obsessive manner as he tries to track the elusive Katie down. I won’t divulge any of the twists and whatnot as to at least keep some of the mystery, but I will tell you, the one is pretty easy to guess from the start and the other you probably will figure out a few minutes before the reveal…
One of the biggest problems does stem from the plot. I did like the introduction of some suspense into a genre which generally follows a familiar pattern so it was nice to take a divergence but after maybe 20-minutes or so, I guessed one of the twists thus I have to wait it out for another 40-minutes for it to be confirmed in between which watching two actors who, while absolutely gorgeous looking and make the perfect cover actors, didn’t quite fit their roles, albeit Hough probably came out of it a tad better while I didn’t buy Duhamel as the single father and widower part as much.
Then you have child actors whom, with few exceptions, are often annoying as hell. Thankfully both kids in this film aren’t too bad so not quite as grating compared with others. David Lyons, the latest product coming out of Australia, is a bit laughable although I can’t blame the actor as the role wasn’t particularly well written to begin with and only adds to the many clichés that litter the film. Last is Cobie Smulders who has a nice, if not small, role being a conscious or guide to Katie.
Safe Haven was directed, with beautiful photography by Terry Stacey, by Lasse Hallstrom making his second Sparks’ adaption following the tearjerker (as if there’s any other kind) starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried which some have called The Notebook-lite. And if you look at the Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations, there’s not a whole lot that differentiates them from one another. Oh sure, the plot elements change up but the substance in each, including The Notebook, is minimal and heavily relies on the two leads to carry audiences through plot coincidences. Here, as I stated earlier, you have two good-looking actors who go well with one another on the Blu-ray and DVD covers but on-screen, they don’t share great chemistry and it seems Duhamel, who tries his best, was miscast in the male lead.
Overall, Safe Haven does have a few things going for it including a lovely and heartfelt letter toward the end, but between the lame, and predictable, twists and plot contrivances and coincidences, the movie never found its footing. I’ll give some credit to Hough for turning in a fine, if not forgettable, performance but otherwise this was yet another Nicholas Sparks adaptation which fails to translate and with each movie making some decent money, it doesn’t show signs of slowing down…
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover. Inside the standard Blu-ray case is a DVD Copy/Digital Copy combo disc and a paper with a code to download the DC.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (5:19; HD) – These are scenes that were cut down or excised probably due to time and pacing. None of them are of particular interest.
Alternate Ending (3:37; HD) is basically the same but with an ever so slight change.
Igniting the Romance in Safe Haven (9:15; HD) is a basic ‘making-of’ featurette showing some behind-the-scenes footage, on-set interviews with the cast and crew as they talk about how they approach the story and filming certain scenes.
Josh Duhamel’s Lessons in Crabbing (3:05; HD) – The star shows his skills as a crabber… It’s a simple but amusing little featurette.
Set Tour (2:18; HD) is just a simple mapping of Southport mixed in with some behind-the-scenes footage.
Theatrical Trailer (2:16; HD)
Preview – The Heat
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment releases Safe Haven presented in its original 2.40 theatrical aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. While I wouldn’t call this HD transfer anything phenomenal, it does have some good detail levels and the color array looks well balanced. Unsurprisingly, the picture is free of any flaws like artifacts or pixilation. There’s a fine amount of grain or noise but it’s minimal.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t anything special but it manages to get the job done. The bulk of the movie is the score, choice music to set the mood or dialogue, all of which comes across pretty clear but when we do get the more “thrill” elements, that’s where this lossless track falls short as those things sound soft with little reverberation through the front and rear channels.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, Safe Haven is an overwrought romance-drama that hits similar chords from the other Nicholas Sparks’ movie adaptations with a bit of a suspense wrinkle thrown in. Even taking the romantic angle aside, the movie is very predictable and while I applaud and give credit to the two stars, neither one were particularly effective. The Blu-ray features a solid video transfer, the audio is merely acceptable and bonus material isn’t anything special.