Safe Haven lands in theaters as the eighth (has it been that long?) film based on a book by Nicholas Sparks. The man knows how to weave a romance like no other writer working today. He has his passionate fan base, for that there is no question, and clearly his latest page-to-screen effort is aimed at them and much more.
See, Sparks has interjected something into his storyline this time out that has added a layer to the romantic power of his stories. As shown in the Safe Haven trailer, the film is also a thriller.
Julianne Hough plays Katie, a woman we meet in the opening moments of the film who is in an utter panic. Without giving away too much, she is running away from something and clearly does not want to be found. She finds Safe Haven (a perfect title!) in a sleepy North Carolina beach town where she takes a job as a waitress at a seaside restaurant.
Soon after, she meets Josh Duhamel's Alex. He runs the town's general store and is a widower with two small (and incredibly cute) kids. From the moment the two first lay eyes on each other, there is a buzz.
A Sparks movie cannot work without... well, sparks between its leads. Anyone other than Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling uttering those classic The Notebook quotes and it wouldn't work. With Safe Haven it is the same way.
Our Safe Haven review believes that sometimes chemistry between leads in a romantic movie is not enough. We hand it to Sparks for the interjecting the thriller aspect to his two people falling in love framework. The work of David Lyons as the mystery man at the heart of the thrills is astounding. Yet, the pacing balance of thriller versus romance slightly falters. Director Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) is an Oscar nominee and brings a pedigree to the Sparks movie world. Even he cannot make magic out of the muddled film.
Then, there is a surprise twist towards the end that left us honestly dumbfounded. If the Sparks storyline had added only one new element to its world, the thriller, Safe Haven would have worked actually. But the way the film plays out in its final minutes had us completely lost.
Is what was teased in this Safe Haven clip enough to make audiences celebrate their love this Valentine's Day by taking in a Nicholas Sparks movie? Sure, but if the author was going for more than his usual fan base, he might not get it with his latest.