Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
How much do I hate this movie? Let me count the ways. I hate the way Hollywood insults audiences by deciding a film version of a Nicholas Sparks bestseller is what audiences need for Valentine's week. I hate the way Sparks-inspired films have gotten exponentially worse since 2004's The Notebook. You want titles? Try Dear John, The Last Song and The Lucky One. I hate that Lasse Hallstrom, the indisputable talent behind My Life As a Dog, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Cider House Rules, got suckered into directing this swill. I hate how nothing about Safe Haven makes sense. I mean, you have to hate this story: Katie (Julianne Hough) has fled Boston by bus, with a psycho cop (David Lyons) and a first-degree murder rap nipping at her heels. And yet Hough, an inexhaustibly perky actress, manages to keep smiling. Worse then that, Katie hides out in an impossibly picturesque fishing village in North Carolina, where she right away meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower with two kids and a gym-toned body no one else in town possesses. As time wears on and on, I keep ignoring Katie's fate and wondering where she and Alex go to get their highlights. I hate the intolerably cutsey dialogue that draws this Ken and Barbie together. I hate the blandness of Hough and Duhamel as actors. No human emotion seems to register on their perfect faces for more than a second at a time. I hate how Hallstrom arranges them like he's shooting a spread for smallo-town Vogue. I hate, to the point of despising, the friendship Katie develops with Jo (Cobie Smulders), a neighbor no one else in town seems to mention. I hate the Sixth Sense vibe that attempts to energize a film that died soon after the opening credits. Flashbacks hint at Kate's dark secrets. But Hough ends every assault on Katie, be it attempted rape or murder, with a delicious crinkle of her nose that signals all traumas can be solved with the right,makeup, hair and lighting. I hate Safe Haven. It's a terrible thing to do to your Valentine.