Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough star in this spellbinding romantic drama based on the novel by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook). When a mysterious, beautiful woman named Katie (Hough), moves to Southport, North Carolina, she sparks the interest of the locals, especially Alex (Duhamel), a handsome widower. Although she is attracted to Alex, Katie is reluctant to trust him – that is, until a new friend (Cobie Smulders) convinces her to give Alex a chance. But before long, a dark secret from Katie’s past threatens her happiness in this thrilling romance directed by Lasse Hallström (Dear John). This latest tear-jerker arrived on Blu-ray on May 7th – although it is not yet sponsored by Kleenex.
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Based on the novel of the same name, Safe Haven is the latest Nicholas Sparks creation. Some people were put on earth to do one thing and one thing only. In the case of Nicholas Sparks, I’m convinced he was put on earth to make women cry. He writes a book that makes women cry and women get together and go see the movie where they all cry. I don’t know why Nicholas Sparks likes to make people cry, but he sure is good at it.
Katie (Julianne Hough) is in an abusive marriage. Fearing for her life, she finally strikes back at her husband and flees town. She rushes to the bus station without a destination in mind and ends up in a small North Carolina town with a small general store. The owner of the store, Alex (Josh Duhamel) is a widow and father of two young children. He tries to be friendly to the new stranger in town but she barely acknowledges the conversation.
Katie decides to stay in town and after spending the night under a pier and quickly finds a job as a waitress. Next she finds a fixer upper home far enough outside of town for her to feel safe from prying neighbors, although it's quite a walk to and from work. She does have a neighbor Jo (Cobie Smulders) who at first oversteps neighborly boundaries, but quickly becomes her closest friend.
Katie continues to settle in to her new town and Alex tries to give her an old bike for the trek back to her home. This gesture is unwelcomed and Katie reacts angrily. Alex may not be having much luck getting to know the newcomer in town but his young daughter Lexie has made a friend. Alex’s older son is having a much harder time dealing with his wife’s death. Alex explains that the reason is because he remembers her, where his daughter remembers the idea of her.
Alex wins over Katie and romance blossoms. In typical chick flick fashion, just when everything is coming together it falls apart. Katie’s psycho husband, who happens to be a cop, has branded her a murderer. He will stop at nothing to get his wife back. Katie has just repaired the damage her lies have done to her relationship with Alex when her ex shows up in town looking to cause trouble. It’s not just Katie’s life in danger. Katie has put Alex and his two children in the cross hairs as well.
If someone taught a class in how to make the quintessential chick flick, the result would be Safe Haven. It has the adorable dead wife, the adorable children, the trip to the beach and the date where they get amusingly caught in the rain. Oh, and it also has Josh Duhamel. What more could you ask for? Julianne Hough is not my favorite actress, but she didn't ruin this one for me. The movie's predictability didn't ruin it either. It was charming, cheesy, sappy and wonderful and I recommend this as a gift for any mother, sister, and wife out there. Guys – just skip it. Even Julianne Hough in her teeny bikini probably won’t redeem the movie for you. Furthermore, if you try to point out that you saw it all coming to your teary-eyed spouse, you might get hurt.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Even the guys will admit (if they watch it) that Safe Haven looks pretty good on Blu-ray. The 1080p AVC encoded transfer looks great in darker scenes and the light. The sharp picture allows the finest of detail to be seen. The color palette is rich and everything about the film makes it easy to feel immersed in that small town.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Safe Haven’s DTS HD Master Audio track is a compliment to the video presentation. It doesn’t have the typical rock your living room elements; it is a chick flick after all. But it does have the environmental elements, crowds, fireworks and a roaring fire that put the listener in the middle of the action. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Special Features (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I certainly expected more content out of the special features on this Blu-ray which contains the following:
- Deleted/extended scenes – Five deleted or extended scenes are available.
- Alternate Ending - This alternate ending is not drastically different from the ending in the film.
- Igniting the Romance in Safe Haven – A Featurette containing interviews with Nicholas Sparks, the director and principal actors.
- Josh Duhamel’s Lessons in Crabbing - A short, but entertaining attempt at crabbing.
- Set Tour – Nicholas Sparks leads a brief location tour.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Sneak Peak
Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Nicholas Spark’s fans will likely enjoy Safe Haven as they did his other adaptations. It’s not a classic like The Notebook but it does the job. Josh Duhamel is gorgeous and he does make a very believable couple when paired with Julianne Hough. The locations are gorgeous, the romance is over the top, and I don’t care if it was insanely predictable. Grab the Kleenex and enjoy! The less you think it through the better.
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