Published Feb 14, 2013Though little differs between the various adaptations — now seven — of Nicholas Sparks's novels, the formula has yet to tire itself out, financially speaking. Two beautiful white people in Dixie states come together, exchange dreadfully wistful and saccharine drivel, overcome a vague, haunted past and live out their lives as banal, inhuman ciphers of Caucasian, heteronormative tedium.
With Safe Haven, this melodramatic hokum is given a couple of thriller elements, care of Katie's (Julianne Hough) increasingly amusing past as a wanted murderer. Newly located to Southport, North Carolina, in a cabin in the woods, she's given a lesson or two about how people do things in that part of the country.
Eventually, she let's some of her guard down with local widower and convenience store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel), which inevitably puts him and his quiet, humble, unrealistic life in danger. But, since this is the world of Nicholas Sparks as seen by Lasse Hallström (who also helmed Dear John), their passion conquers all, reaffirming the cultural delusion that love is little more than a Hallmark card and a bowl of cherries.
On occasion, these adaptations can be made tolerable by actors that have a bit of chemistry together. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook is the best example, and even Dear John had a bit of tension between Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried.
Unfortunately, Julianne Hough has absolutely zero charisma, presence or acting chops. Watching her is like watching a pharmaceutical rep hock drugs. Worse is that Josh Duhamel is old enough to be her father and watching them awkwardly steam things up is more alienating and icky than intense or emotional.
Add to this writing that doesn't take into account the real world, human emotions or any sort of subtlety and you have one of the most unwatchable messes in recent history. Even Hallström seems bored enough with the material that professional, consistent direction is unimportant.
But, hey, there are pretty people in various states of undress wandering around beaches and looking into sunsets, so maybe it doesn't matter. (eOne)