Safe Haven **/4 – a movie review by James Berardinelli

February 14, 2013 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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It’s pointless criticizing a Nicholas Sparks movie for being a Nicholas Sparks movie. Sparks, like Barbara Cartland before him, delivers exactly what his fans want: romance between two attractive people.

He tugs at heartstrings, acts like an onion on tear ducts, and provide the dose of sappy fantasy that allows his readers to escape into a world that’s about as real as Middle Earth. This kind of thing inevitably works better in writing than in movies. Reading a Sparks novel allows one’s imagination to enter the equation. Watching one of his stories adapted on screen has exactly the opposite effect: it neuters the imagination. This is soap opera, pure and simple. It’s trash – entertaining and escapist, perhaps – but trash nonetheless. Overcoming the contrived plot points and painfully obvious “twists” makes it a difficult task to concentrate on the basic, critical character interaction.
In Safe Haven, Sparks gives us two familiar romantic types. There’s the incredibly attractive, spunky girl with a tragic, mysterious past. Then there’s the incredibly attractive, sensitive guy with a tragic (but not so mysterious) past. The movie takes a little while to get Alex (Josh Duhamel) and Katie (Julianne Hough) together, but such foreplay is necessary in a movie like this. Eventually, they inch closer to one another, develop feelings, and engage in some PG-13 sex. Things seem to be going smoothly until a dark figure from Katie’s past (David Lyons) shows up waving a gun, being mean to everyone (even a little girl!), drinking vodka out of a water bottle, and making it pretty obvious that he’s not just a nice guy who has been misunderstood.

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