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Review: Safe Haven

Score:C+

Director:Lasse Hallstrom

Cast:Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, David Lyons

Running Time:115 Minutes

Rated:PG-13

I'm not sure what it says about a writer's output that his best adaptation in years is a complete rip-off a 20-year-old Julia Roberts movie, but Nicholas Sparks' latest is perhaps his most tolerable film yet. Granted, he only wrote the original novel, not the completely adequate script, but there's no denying the similarities between Safe Haven and Sleeping with the Enemy.

Each film had a beautiful woman hiding out in a small town after escaping her abusive husband who ends up falling in love with a local everyman, with a climax featuring the Evil Husband showing up where she thought she could never be found. Dun-dun-dun!

Past Nicholas Sparks movies have made me angry at their gross misrepresentation of what love is and can be. Between Sparks and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, we're going to have a whole generation of extremely disappointed women. But Safe Haven is much more cautious and slower paced. The courtship between Katie (Hough) and Alex (Duhamel) is leisurely and sweet, unlike the animal lust that consumed the couple in The Lucky One.

While this still has all the eye-rolling trademarks of a Nicholas Sparks production"”the Southern setting, characters so nice they're suspicious, and a scene set during a rainstorm that will eventually lead to some well lit PG-13 sex"”I found myself less aggravated and more willing to roll with a story to which I could easily guess the ending.

There are two more things that set Safe Haven apart from its brethren, one good and one unfortunate. The good is Katie's relationship with her neighbor Jo (Smulders). It's been a long time since I've seen a movie that actually develops a female friendship and has them talk about something other than relationship advice, even briefly. But the unfortunate part comes down to the direction. The flashbacks to which we see Katie's old life are handled without any tact. It borders on exploitation and with the PG-13 rating comes across as more disturbing, because it has to be brutal without being realistic.

Safe Haven is nothing special or groundbreaking. But the good news for guys this Valentine's Day is this: unlike past Nicholas Sparks movies you've had to take your girlfriend to, you can leave your cyanide capsule at home for this one.

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About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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