Expecting a Nicholas Sparks movie to be anything other than a mess of complicated love, convenient cancer and high melodrama would be futile.
“Safe Haven” is simply the latest repackaging of that same old story we’ve seen from Sparks a million times before.
In the film, a woman named Katie (Julianne Hough) arrives in a small North Carolina town with some things she’s trying to run from, including an abusive estranged husband, Kevin (David Lyons), who’s also a police officer.
Katie quickly catches the eye of a local widower, Alex (Josh Duhamel), when she charms his two daughters. Eventually, though, Kevin arrives in town with some questions, and Katie is forced to confront her past.
Even at first viewing, “Safe Haven” feels like literally every other adaptation of a Sparks novel.
And it’s not just the schmaltzy and unbelievable plot: it’s the generically attractive white actors, the romanticized Southern locale and, of course, the cancer.
Frankly, it would be a lot more of a shocking emotional punch if someone didn’t die of cancer in a Sparks story.
But even with all this, “Safe Haven” didn’t have to be as truly dull as it was.
“The Notebook,” for example, shared all the same characteristics (just swap dementia in for the cancer because even Sparks has to switch up the terminal illness every once in a while).
However, “The Notebook” succeeded as a very entertaining and engrossing film, thanks mostly to the strong performances and electric chemistry of stars Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.
Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, however, don’t bring any of that.
Their performances aren’t bad, but they have no chemistry and it ends up feeling like you’re just watching two attractive people frolic around because they happened to be on a beach.
Compared to the fiery and impassioned relationship of Allie and Noah in “The Notebook,” Katie and Alex are so boring it nearly puts you to sleep.
The script is nothing exciting, the directing is uninspired and the music is generic.
The cinematography is fairly good, but that’s probably more to do with the beautiful location than anything else.
Indeed, the only surprising thing about the movie is that its plot twist ending.
Sparks must have been watching M. Night Shyamalan movies while he was writing the book because this is one unexpected and truly ludicrous plot twist that only Shyamalan could have come up with, even going so far as to include a ghost.
The problem with a Shyamalan-style twist is that they’ve become so commonplace that the only shock is how incredibly stupid they are.
I hope that the mainstream audience will finally see that Sparks has jumped the shark with this latest story — but I’m not counting on it.
The reality is that Sparks seems to have a bizarre hold over the romantically-inclined young female audience; “Safe Haven” will do well at the box office and generate another uninspired adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
In the meantime, look up the film’s ending online just for a laugh, but don’t waste any money buying a ticket.