True love — and cuteness — triumph in drippy ‘Haven’
Updated: February 19, 2013 2:24PM
It’s comforting to know, in this uncertain and imperfect world, that if you’re wholesome enough, adorable enough and good-looking enough, everything is going to work out fine.
That’s the takeaway from “Safe Haven,” an artificial and absurd romance that’s dull, predictable and drippy even by the soggy standard set by previous Nicholas Sparks adaptations such as “Dear John,” “Nights in Rodanthe” and “Message in a Bottle.”
One thing distinguishes it from the rest of the pack: a thriller subplot that’s apparently a first for novelist turned producer Sparks. But even with director Lasse Hallstrom (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “The Cider House Rules”) at the helm, as he was for 2010’s “Dear John,” the suspense factor is almost entirely nil.
Soon after fleeing breathlessly from her home one dark night, young Katie (Julianne Hough) transforms herself from a brunette to a blonde and boards a bus leaving Boston, mere moments ahead of a pursuing detective (David Lyons). Katie hops off the bus in quaint little town on the North Carolina coast, where she immediately lands a job waiting tables, rents a dreamy little cottage in the woods and meets Alex (Josh Duhamel) the town’s most eligible and handsome young widower.
Katie is guarded and secretive, but also twinkly-eyed, crinkly-nosed cute, so Alex can’t help noticing her — and soon they’re involved in a long, slooooooow courtship dance. As the only ones in town with perfect teeth and hair, they are clearly meant to breed. Katie bonds with Alex’s kids, sympathizes about his dead wife and the fact that she’s on the run from the law and a murder charge is forgotten for long stretches, until a flashback to her brunette days serves as a reminder. Oh yeah, cutie-pie has a dark, ominous past. There’s a secret about that, by the way, involving the detective, who’s as creepy as he is fixated and relentless about tracking Katie down.
All of this slogs on for far too long until the anti-climactic un-thrilling conclusion before “Safe Haven” sends us on our way with an arbitrary, pointless and ridiculous plot twist meant to make us swoon over the eternal power of true love.
Though it’s every bit as likely to make you throw your popcorn popcorn box at the screen.