I’m no stranger to the ‘chick flick.’ (500) Days of Summer is one of my favorite movies and while I think the market is flooded with terrible, by-the-numbers romance and romantic comedy movies, it doesn’t mean they’re all terrible. I’m even familiar with Nicholas Sparks. While I can’t say I’ve actually read any of his books, when a girlfriend forced me to watch The Notebook I was surprised at how deep of an emotional core it had. The same isn’t true for all of his film adaptations, but hearing that name doesn’t threaten my ‘manhood’ and send me running. I may not have been overly thrilled to see Safe Haven, but I wasn’t walking in with any negative preconceived notions.
From the outset, it seemed like I would find some sort of enjoyment with Safe Haven. While I know nothing about Julianne Hough beyond that she was in three musicals in three years that I had zero interest in, she seemed to be playing Katie pretty well. For some reason though, the movie likes to surround her background and what she’s running from in a shroud of mystery. Why was she running with a bloody knife in the beginning? Who was stabbed? Why are the police chasing her?
My mind was running with the possibilities, but my imagination was ultimately far more interesting than what the answer ultimately was. Fortunately though, the police officer tracking her was played by none other than The Cape himself, David Lyons. Cobie Smulders plays Katie’s first friend and neighbor in this sleepy town and Josh Duhamel of Transformer fame plays the widowed love interest who is just trying to do good by his children. While the beginning may have teased a deeper and more interesting plot, what we have is pretty standard romance fare.
While a by the numbers love story wouldn’t have bothered me, as long as the script was solid and the acting quality, Safe Haven manages to completely drop the ball and utterly destroy any enjoyment I could have ever rang out of its plot with a twist so drastic and out of left field in the last five minutes that I would have sworn I was watching an SNL skit parodying romances. You don’t go to see a movie like this to get a shocking ending, and I even researched the novel it was based on to make sure it was still there, so I’m not sure exactly what drugs Nicholas Sparks was on when he decided to end the plot in this manner
Safe Haven is proof that endings can utterly destroy plots. Endings aren’t supposed to suddenly throw everything you just experienced into question. These last five minutes left me more confused than the entirety of Prometheus and the end of Mass Effect 3. The fact that someone actually greenlit a script based on this tragedy of a plot without deciding to change the asinine curve ball at the end is just more proof that quality doesn’t matter as long as you can slap a recognizable name like Nicholas Sparks on it.
Safe Haven should have been a great Valentine’s Day movie. It should have been this heartwarming movie about a woman moving on from a tragic and abusive relationship with The Cape and finding solace in the arms of Major Lennox, one of the most forgettable characters of one of the biggest movie franchises that ruins childhoods. Instead we get a good story ruined by a twist ending that could have only spawned from the brain of the worst M. Night Shyamalan parody you can think of. If you read and enjoyed the book, you’ll like the movie because apparently you love nonsensical twists and don’t want to think about how the logistics of the plot make any semblance of sense, otherwise stay far away.
In Theaters: February 14, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material involving threatening behavior, and for violence and sexuallity)
Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, Cobie Smulders
Genre: Adaptation, Drama
Distributor: Relativity Media
Official Site: http://www.safehavenfilm.com/
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