Safe Haven (2013)

Safe Haven

1.5 / 5 stars      

I honestly try hard to like conventional romantic comedies. I really do. So few of them have anything to keep a guy interested, though. I hate sounding even to myself like a cynical male, but to filmmakers out there, let me say: “If you’re going to make a movie to get women into the seats, throw us guys a bone!” One way to do that is to use humor, and lots of it. Sprinkle it liberally throughout, like grated cheese on your Olive Garden entrĂ©e. Hell, toss in a random, pointless car chase or have a transformer explode. Anything.

All right, that’s out of my system. Let’s take a look at Safe Haven. Katie (Julianne Hough) is on the run from her abusive, alcoholic, police detective husband Tierney, played by David Lyons. Or is she? The details are sketchy as we see her flee her home covered in blood, change her appearance at the home of a friend, climb worriedly onto a bus and head south to warmer weather.

Stopping at random in a small coastal town in North Carolina, she charms her way into a job and a home out in the woods (it’s still not clear to me how she was able to purchase it), and settles into a life far from danger. Of course, as these things go, she’s not quite far enough. Tierney is on a single-minded mission to find his estranged lover at the cost of his dignity, his job and apparently his very life. In the meantime, Katie falls for, Alex (Josh Duhamel), the first guy she sees and romance blossoms. Mixed in with the main romance are a couple of side stories. There’s a plot thread regarding Alex’s young son coping with the death of his mother that’s tossed away before the end of the film. The daughter seems to have no problems with a one-parent family at all. There’s Katie’s friend up the road, also being escapist. From what, we’re never told. These are all symptoms of the infection that courses through this movie.

All of the characters are cardboard cutouts and fairly one-dimensional (e.g. the angry Police Chief, the inept local cops, the hapless and charming Mr. Mom, etc.) The story is laughably predictable in places and mostly covers well-trodden territory. I will say that there is one Big Plot Twist(tm) in the film that perceptive viewers will pick up on fairly quickly. The aftermath of my late realization led to me questioning the validity of the film in general, feeling it went one step way too far, rather than being enticed by what could be considered a clever plot device. I’d give more details but since it’s the only part of the movie that deviates from the norm, I’m loathe to divulge anything about it.

I’d stay away if you can, but your girlfriend or wife is definitely going to put this on her Must Watch list and for that, I’m sorry. Keep a stiff upper lip and try to figure out the twist before anyone else. The game will take the edge off what otherwise will be two hours of drudgery. Women, you’ll like this film much more than the guys. You’ll know it’s not the best romance you’ve seen, but it delicately plucks all the right heart strings and from that insidious parasite, you’re simply not immune.

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