You’ve barely read the first line of the review and yet, you already know, capitalized Sparks are gonna fly – oh, when I say sparks I mean, of course, author Nicholas Sparks and what’s expected to be unfastened for flight are a barrage of sweet southern sayings, opposites attracting, cheesy ‘soul mate’ memes in waiting, and – quite likely, since it’s a staple of Sparks’s novels, and consequent films – someone catching the red eye to heaven.
This latest film transfer of a Sparks’ novel – others already adapted for the saccharine-beseeching cinema goer include ”A Walk to Remember”, ”Message in a Bottle”, ”The Notebook”, ”Dear John” and ”The Last Song” – doesn’t really do anything different from the others, but it’s intended audience won’t care. Like a fat kid at a fair, you’ll come for fairy floss and you’ll most definitely get that.
”Safe Haven” tells of a distraught young Bostonian (Julianne Hough, Rock of Ages) who, hoping to escape her past (and someone associated with it), hops aboard a bus to a small North Carolina town. Complete with a new haircut and identity, the cautious ‘Katie’ begins to form a friendship with a local widower, Alex (Josh Duhamel) and his two kids.
Just as soon as the young woman makes a new life for herself in the seaside town, her past catches up with her and a secret is revealed that could derail her blossoming new relationship.
With Gage Lansky and Dana Stevens on cute-and-paste word duty, ”Safe Haven” takes an anachronistic and habitually efficient pattern and simply repurposes it. But you know that, right? And you know what? Southerner Sparks writes nice stories about nice people, doing nice things for one another; in these turbulent times, with so many disturbing tales occupying our TV and film screens, some ‘nice’ might be just what people need (and it might also be the reason these films do some well; they provide comfort for the weary minds and hearts of the human population.) You won’t feel drained watching a movie like this, you’ll just smile. Can’t be too bad then, right?
Look, obviously there aren’t many surprises here, being that Sparks genuinely sticks to his proven formula (though, welcomingly, this one has a third act that plays a fresher than some of the other fare; if anything, the final act is more akin to Julia Robert’s 90’s thriller ”Sleeping with the Enemy” than, well, any of Sparks’s films that ends with someone dying of a terminal illness), and, as good as the cast is, the parts don’t require the flesh filling them much to do besides cry on cue and bat eyelids (though Julianne Hough is as cute-as-a-button and offers up a very likeable performance), but ya know, like a full-timer at Coles unwrapping their pay-packet you won’t be disappointed because you’ll know what to expect.
A nice wind-down after the zombiefying process ”Zero Dark Thirty” puts one through.
Blu-ray details/extras : A nice letterbox presentation, along with super crisp sound, is accompanied by such extras as featurettes, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending – which doesn’t work as well (not that the current one works magnificently) as the one that stayed.