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Movie Review: Safe Haven

February 15, 2013

Safe Haven PosterSafe Haven – An Alliance Films’ Release

Release Date: February 14th, 2013

Rated PG for violence, sexual content and language

Running time: 115 minutes

Lasse Hallström (dir.)

Leslie Bohem (screenplay)

Dana Stevens (screenplay)

Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Deborah Lurie (music)

Julianne Hough as Katie

Josh Duhamel as Alex

David Lyons as Kevin Tierney

Noah Lomax as Josh

Mimi Kirkland as Lexie

Irene Ziegler as Mrs. Feldman

Red West as Roger

Cobie Smulders as Jo

Safe Haven

©Alliance Films.  All Rights Reserved.

Katie (Julianne Hough) and Alex (Josh Duhamel) in Safe Haven.

Our reviews below:


Safe Haven Review By John C.

** (out of 4)

If you just walked in during certain scenes of Safe Haven, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a low grade thriller centred around domestic abuse rather than the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book.  But these edgier elements give way to a predictably melodramatic romance, that has a few too many plot holes alongside the cute lead actress and agreeable falling in love montages.

When we first meet Katie (Julianne Hough) she is running away from home, her neck and shirt stained in blood.  There is a mysterious detective named Kevin Tierney (David Lyons) hot on her trail, and she ends up in North Carolina.  Katie sets up a new life in the small fishing village where she falls for Alex (Josh Duhamel), a convenience store owner who is raising his two young kids Josh (Noah Lomax) and Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) after their mother died of cancer.  But before we have time for another romantic interlude, Katie’s past threatens to catch up with her and derail her new identity, in the form of a one dimensional villain.

The moments when Safe Haven does try to get away from the usual formula actually become contrived and predictable in their own ways.  There are also a few too many plot holes in the film, and several things that actually defy logic.  Like why does Alex let his young daughter tend the cash when he leaves the store, and why would Katie rent a creepy cabin in the woods in a small town where it would be easy for someone to track her down?  When Alex noisily leaves a bike outside of Katie’s secluded home in the middle of the night, we really start to question his common sense.  We also get a twist in the last couple of scenes that is guaranteed to be viewed as either sweet or ridiculous, depending on your tolerance level for sentiment.

There certainly still are some agreeable elements to Safe Haven.  Julianne Hough has a likeable screen presence, and she does quite well in her first dramatic role.  The aforementioned falling in love montages are also nicely done and sure to provide enough small joys to audiences looking for nothing more than a melodramatic romance.  But everything else about Safe Haven feels merely serviceable, falling into a level of passable entertainment that doesn’t even quite live up to superior Nicholas Sparks adaptations, and will play just as well at home for fans of the author.


Safe Haven Review by Erin V.  

** (out of 4)

Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven starts with a woman named Katie (Julianne Hough) running for her life from a suburban neighbourhood.  After escaping on a tourist bus, she arrives in South Port, North Carolina, where she rents a cabin in the woods where she inexplicably feels comfortable living alone.  After that big decision, she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a single father of two (8 year old Josh and 6 year old Lexie) who owns a local diner/convenience store, but despite running from her old life, it threatens to follow her.

The film is predictable throughout and a little contrived at times, not to mention the plotholes, but it will find its audience and for me was neither one I loved nor hated.  With the current slate of films in the multiplex, fans of Nicholas Sparks may want to check this one out – but it is certainly one that will lose nothing if you just wait for DVD.


Safe Haven Review by Nicole

** (out of 4)

Based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven tells a melodramatic tale filled with several plot holes.  When Katie (Julianne Hough) flees her abusive husband, she escapes to Southport, North Carolina.  There she meets a widower, Alex (Josh Duhamel), who runs a convenience store with his two kids, Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) and Josh (Noah Lomax).  Of course, Alex and Katie fall in love.

Meanwhile, a cop (David Lyons) is tracking down Katie after a stabbing.  The so called mystery behind the stabbing is so obvious.  The ominous music in certain scenes is a dead giveaway, so that the stabbing can’t even be called a mystery.

There are other plot holes too.  Why does Alex leave his young daughter alone to lead the store?  And Alex later makes another decision that seems ludicrous with the information he has at the time.  There is also a completely out of the blue scene where Katie “gigs” or stabs a fish with a spear.  The AHA was on set and the scene was simulated with rubber fish, but this seemed like gratuitous violence that does nothing but disturb sensitive viewers.  Finally, a showdown between two characters seems ridiculous when it could have conveniently ended before.  Overall, Safe Haven is also too long.

Despite all the negativity.  Safe Haven does have some beautiful scenes of both the ocean and the forest.  Julianne Hough is decent, as is the young Mimi Kirkland.  The twist at the end is also quite interesting and unexpected.  However, these pluses still only make this film worth a rental.


Safe Haven Review by Maureen

** (out of 4)

Nicholas Sparks stories are usually a pretty safe bet when it comes to mildly entertaining, pleasant to watch romance movies.  However, Safe Haven doesn’t quite measure up to the original book or other Nicholas Sparks movies.

The overall plot in this movie adaptation remains faithful to the book.  Unfortunately, much of the lead character Katie’s (Julianne Hough) story of how she came to be in Southport, North Carolina is rushed through in a few violent images and doesn’t allow for the same character development as in the book.  Katie’s romantic interest, Alex (Josh Duhamel) is also far more appealing in the book than onscreen.  Personally, I didn’t buy the attraction between the two leads in this movie.  Julianne Hough is pleasant enough to watch, but Josh Duhamel’s performance fell flat for me.

It’s clear from the beginning that Katie is running from something or someone.  We quickly realize that Detective Kevin Tierney’s (David Lyons) cross-country pursuit of her is more than just routine police business.  The flashbacks of Katie’s life are quite violent and will be unsettling for younger or more sensitive viewers.

There are some pleasant moments in Safe Haven.  The North Carolina scenery is beautiful and Alex’s kids Josh (Noah Lomax) and Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) are cute.  Young Mimi Kirkland gives an especially appealing performance.  Even Katie’s friend and neighbour Jo (Cobie Smulders) is interesting to watch.  However, the predictable plot holes and all the melodrama make Safe Haven hard to take seriously.

As for the plot twist at the end, it’s in the book as well, you will either buy it and think it’s sweet or roll your eyes.  This is a DVD kind of movie.


Safe Haven Review by Tony

** (out of 4)

Safe Haven is the latest film based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, which means there is a city woman moving to a small southern town and falling in love with a local guy, surrounded by beautiful scenery and accompanied by a Hallmark (Deborah Lurie) score. This time the stakes are a bit higher.

The woman Katie (Julianne Hough) escapes from an abusive husband and is on the run from a Boston police detective (David Lyons) and finds herself in Southport, NC where the guy Alex (Josh Duhamel) is a widower with two kids and a general store. Their budding relationship is encouraged by a friendly neighbour Jo (Cobie Smulders) and things move along nicely until the Fourth of July when the ex catches up with Katie.

Directed by Lasse Hallström, Safe Haven adds some suspense and mystery to the usual formula with a twist at the end that may not work for everybody, but at almost two hours it could use some trimming. The generally predictable plot has some holes in it and the cast is merely serviceable, though Julianne Hough, usually associated with song and dance films, carries it quite well.

To summarize, Safe Haven is arguably the weakest of the Sparks franchise to date, but for his fans and those with low enough expectations it is a half decent date movie at a time of year when pickings are slim in theatres. The rest of us can wait for the disc version.


Consensus: Although Safe Haven has an appealing performance from Julianne Hough and provides a few predictably nice moments, this Nicholas Sparks adaptation has too many plot holes and moments of melodrama to quite work as a whole.  ** (Out of 4)

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