Review: Safe Haven (Super Hot Makeout Scene Makes Lame Drama Worthwhile)

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Boston is a dangerous place in Safe Haven the new drama by the god of paint-by-numbers romances, Nicholas Sparks. The way Lasse Hallström (Cider House Rules) shoots it you’d think Bean Town was as hostile an environment as Katie’s abusive marriage.

Katie (Julianne Hough, Rock of Ages) has to flee her home and boards a buss for anywhere else. She arrives in a North Carolina beach town, takes a job as a waitress and leaves everything but her anxieties behind. Everyone in earshot has a tragic romance in his or her past; this makes Josh Duhamel seem even hotter as he shows off his cute chemistry (and bad haircut) with a son and daughter who intermittently struggle with the recent death of their mother.

Hough and Duhamel have great onscreen chemistry and their first kiss is a total scorcher, but it happens in the context of a movie so stodgy and pat it almost dehydrates the other romantic elements. I don't know when has the sexy south has ever looked dry.

From the climax to the finish, things go from silly to absurd, with Katie's crazy ex sniffing her out on the one day her “Safe Haven” could miss the sound of gunfire. I’m all for these Nick Sparks pictures, even if the repetitiveness of the romances only provides the emotional comfort of a Dearfoam slipper, (come to think of it, that might make for a good cross promotion), but the film’s last ditch attempt to earn our sympathies through the kid’s dead mother really drives down Safe Haven's integrity.

This is a story about conflicts as literal as brass and tacks—it can’t bear the weight (or the weightlessness) of specters. Thank god Duhammel and Hough can still make out.

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About Sara Vizcarrondo

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Sara Vizcarrondo is a freelance film critic out of San Francisco. She runs Opening Movies at Rottentomatoes, teaches film/media studies at DeAnza college and writes on film for Popdose and The SF Bay Guardian.

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