Bland, cookie-cutter rendering of a novel by chick-lit messiah Nicholas Sparks that fails on nearly every level.
The overriding feeling from watching Safe Haven is that one might expect a little bit more from a talent like Lasse Hallström. Yet he’s got previous experience in the romance subgenre having adapted Nicholas Sparks' icky novel, 'Dear John', in 2010.
Here he is again, then, plumbing rock bottom with a seriously dumb movie. Seriously, it is unfailingly idiotic on every count, so much so, there’s a vague suspicion the actual intention is to satirise Sparks' wild success with the Mills & Boon crowd. The author is the Dan Brown of romance novels, after all.
Erin/Katie (Julianne Hough) is a girl in trouble. On the run from a deranged ex, also a cop, she might well be implicated in homicide, and seeks anonymity in a small Southern town. Right on cue, the hot pants-sporting femme fatale meets widower hunk Alex, played by charm vacuum Josh Duhamel.
Seeking isolation then befriending everybody in the entire town is just one of the many confused motives in Safe Haven. And as ever with Sparks, the quaint tradition of writing soppy missives provides a plot anchor, and again, a schmaltzy attempt to achieve teary-eyed resonance.
The appeal is minimal: from smudged backdrops and foreground detail that comes across as an eye-straining, impressionistic mess to the bland leads who are left very much in-focus. It also asks the viewer to accept a narrative development that complicates the plot tremendously once the southern-fried gothic twist has been revealed. Rather than being cleverly executed, the Shyamalan-esque conceit makes no sense whatsoever. It's a sickly cocktail of genres just doesn’t pay off.
Hough and co-star Duhamel share zero chemistry as the central pair. They can’t even aspire to the limp interactions of Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in Dear John. By comparison Gosling and McAdams in The Notebook is some far away, half-forgotten dream.
So a flavourless Jambalaya of domestic abuse drama, blossoming romance, corny, Smalltown USA platitudes, and the supernatural is far too much for the director to handle. Safe Haven is a dreadful movie with all the wallop of a Hallmark greetings card.
Is Lasse Hallström a glutton for punishment?
This one deserves to be drowned in a bayou.
The very definition of a stinker.