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Safe Haven (2 stars)

A bland, 'vanilla' film about true love conquering all, starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel

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Safe Haven - MON 18 FEB

The Nicholas Sparks novel-to-screen hit-machine shows no sign of slowing down; A Walk To Remember, The Notebook, The Lucky One, and The Last Song have all delighted teenage girls worldwide. Director Lasse Hallström previously paired Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum in an adaptation of Sparks’ Dear John, a drippy romance that’s positively spicy compared to the anemic passion displayed in his latest, Safe Haven.

After supporting roles in Rock of Ages and the 2011 version of Footloose, Julianne Hough takes centre-stage as Katie, who is introduced on the run from the police, namely Tierney (David Lyons). Giving the dogged cop the slip by stowing away on a long-distance bus, Katie disembarks in the tiny tourist trap of Southport, North Carolina, where she strikes up a romance with widowed store owner and single father Alex (Josh Duhamel from the Transformers series). With Tierney closing in, Katie also arouses the attention of her neighbor Jo (Cobie Smulders from Avengers Assemble), who may or may not be prepared to help Katie evade the law and win Alex’s heart.

Hallström was once considered a top director with well-mounted, lush adaptations like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat and The Cider House Rules. His recent output has retained the Hollywood sheen, but not the feeling for character or plot. In Safe Haven, he withholds key information about what Katie did to arouse the police’s suspicions; when the reveal comes, it feels manipulative and cheap. And the late suggestion of a supernatural element is so odd that audiences are likely to be left incredulous at what they’ve just seen. Safe Haven is a blandly ‘vanilla’ film; attractively shot in picturesque locations, peppered with recognizable if unexciting faces, and delivering a simplistic homily about love conquering all that only a teenage girl could love.

General release Fri 1 Mar.

Safe Haven

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 115 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Lasse Hallström
  • Written by: Leslie Bohem, Dana Stevens, Nicholas Sparks
  • Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders
  • UK release: 1 March 2013

Katie (Hough), on the run from the police, stops off in the small town of Southport in North Carolina, where she starts a romance with widowed store owner Alex (Duhamel). Anemic romance based on a Nicholas Sparks novel; further evidence of the decline of once-talented director Hallström.

Safe Haven Official Trailer

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