They really need to stop putting “From the author of The Notebook” on the posters, because being constantly reminded of this is a detriment to every film that follows based on the books of Nicholas Sparks.
This isn’t to say that his other books aren’t worthy of being adapted, nor are all the movies based on these books horrible, they just fail to live up to The Notebook. So just stop reminding us to compare them to this favorite already.
Similar to most of Sparks’ other stories, we find ourselves hoping for a man and a woman to fall in love in the foreground of some beautiful southern location on the east coast, this time the roles being filled by Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. That’s not the only signature here: they push against each other at first until finally giving in to flirtation and each others longing glances, they take a boat ride that ends in a torrential downpour (personally I missed the ducks), they dance, and there is quite a bit of melodrama (it’s definitely more awkwardly undeserved here than in other Sparks’ adaptations). Ok, I may have enjoyed the dancing scene thanks to Duhamel’s easy charm, but eventually the story is similar enough to all the rest that it’s hard not to grope for the things that will make this stand out from the rest. And as adorable as Duhamel and Hough are together, they’re outshone by his scene-stealing daughter (Mimi Kirkland), the overabundant sweat stains of David Lyons’ shirts as he hunts down Hough’s fugitive with enough dedication and alcohol to give him crazy eyes, and Cobie Smulders ability to just always be there for no apparent reason.
There are a few surprises along the way, but honestly that hardly deserve being called such considering they can easily be foreseen by anyone willing to put the pieces together that are hinted at to the watchful eye. That’s right, even the big reveal. I’m looking at you, gasping ladies. I’m sure many will be brought to tears by this turn of events, but it takes such a turn from the story that has been presented so far that it seems so unnatural to the world created.
Let’s face it, I am the hopeless romantic who doesn’t need to be strong-armed into falling for the promised heart-tugging of every film with the Nicholas Sparks’ stamp on it, but I can’t help but think that Safe Haven probably plays out better on the page, especially when considering the larger reveal. As it stands, the film version fails to live up to The Notebook, disappointing millions.
Final Grade: C Follow @BewareOfTrees