Join Judge Patrick Naugle as members of the Nicholas Sparks' movie of the month club! You'll be glad you did.
Our review of Nicholas Sparks DVD Collection, published February 3rd, 2014, is also available.
Sometimes the safest place is where you least expect it.
With movies like Message in a Bottle, The Lucky One, and The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks has officially created romance's answer to the Friday the 13th franchise: films which are exactly the same with only slight variations on their theme. His newest adaptation treacle is Safe Haven, now available on Blu-ray care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Katie (Julianne Hough, Rock of Ages) is a woman running away from her past. After sprinting out of her house covered in blood, Katie hops a bus headed for anywhere but where she is, followed closely by a tenacious policeman (David Lyons, Eat Pray Love). Katie arrives in Southport, North Carolina, a small beach town with honest simple residents and widower Alex (Josh Duhamel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), a store owner with two kids and an open heart. Alex and Katie strike up a friendship and then become lovers…until Katie's dark past threatens to unravel her safe new existence.
Author Nicholas Sparks has managed to create a sub-genre of movies unto himself. You know the kind of movie I'm referencing. Two people who come together through various circumstances—illness, lawsuits, well-lit framing—and then have to struggle until they find themselves cradled in each other's arms, often during a rainstorm, in a cozy barn, or maybe on a beach next to a roaring fire. These stories often have a syrupy moral or spiritual undertone, and are as formulaic as a McDonald's cheeseburger. Interestingly enough, Sparks' films have also spawned a specific styl of movie poster: awesomely backlit people gazing deeply into each other's eyes. Seriously, look it up—these posters are like some weird cloning process gone haywire.
But I digress…This newest Sparks cheeseburger takes place in a small town where a woman on the run can rent a rustic cabin with some pocket change and a hairbrush. Julianne Hough plays the damsel in distress in need of saving by the handsome single dad who owns a little store in this beachfront community. At first she's chilly to him, then warms up, and eventually…well, if you don't know how this paragraph ends, you've been living under not just a rock, but an entire granite quarry.
Who exactly is Katie on the run from? Her crazy husband, of course! I'm spoiling nothing, since all of this information is provided within the first few minutes. David Lyons plays this wack-a-doo spouse who will go to the ends of the earth to find his wife, and since he's conveniently a man of the law, he's got the means and wherewithal to do it. This leads to many scenes where the nutty husband shows a lot of people his wife's picture. Will he eventually find her before the last reel? The answer to that question is the same answer to, "Is the sky blue?"
Pretty people Hough and Duhamel spend the majority of their time making gooey eyes at each other and rolling around the sheets like a couple of horny teenagers. While both performances are adequate, neither is revelatory. Hough's Katie spends her time sheepishly pushing back her blonde locks, being startled by noises in the background, or making out with Alex. Duhamel gets to look worried a lot, and every so often takes his shirt off to reveal a body that shames me about my own physique in ways I can't even begin to describe.
And then, KA-BOOM!!! The whole movie goes completely off the rails like some kind of freight train heading straight into crazy town!
If it seems like that sentence was an abrupt tonal shift, imagine what it's like watching Safe Haven. The last five minutes offers a twist so out of the blue, my brain actually had a hard time processing it. It's like having the family dog take a huge dump on the Thanksgiving turkey, ruining everything that came before it. If you think I'm over-exaggerating, please watch Safe Haven and tell me the final reveal doesn't reek of narrative desperation and potentially mild brain damage.
Presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen, Fox has given the film a great looking transfer with nary a defect to be found. Scenery is beautiful and black levels are solid, while colors are lush and eye popping, with lots of natural gold and green patterns. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track features a good mix of directional effects and folksy music, with a boost from composer Deborah Lurie's plucky and soothing score. Bonus features include five deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a few brief EPK featurettes ("Igniting the Romance in Safe Haven", "Josh Duhamel's Lessons in Crabbing", "Set Tour"), and a theatrical trailer, along with DVD and digital copies of the film.
Safe Haven is a big budget version of a Lifetime women-in-peril movie of the week. Clichés abound like ticks in a forest and the whole thing comes off as a schmaltzy melodrama that offers nothing in the way of originality. I take that back, it offers one surprise so monumentally idiotic that even M. Night Shyamalan would have said, "Oh, HELL no!"
A perfectly acceptable if uninspired romantic thriller…until the last
five minutes. You've been warned.
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