Safe Haven - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Safe Haven Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ February 23, 2013
You know it when you find it.

Very Good Film! The whole film seemed so natural that there was an obvious, stark contrast to the drama and thriller aspect in the end. The script was given a twist, and I sat through most of the film not quiet sure what was going to happen next, it definitely kept me intrigued, although I found it a little slow at a few points, i still walked away liking the film as a whole. I highly recommend it and would go so far as to say it's a must see! Of course the romantic comedy fans will eat it up, but the men who are dragged along might enjoy it more than they think!

A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.
Super Reviewer
March 1, 2013
Josh have my heart. This was just wonderful. Sweet. Funny. Complete, and utter chick flick happiness....oh, and what an ending. I had no idea. Good job...
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
August 21, 2013
For a solid two acts, I couldn't hate Safe Haven, the latest in the bland, paint-by-numbers coastal romances based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. It was chiefly inoffensive but predictable at every step, but I didn't mind. At this point, Sparks is a brand and you know what you're getting. Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages) plays a woman on the run from a corrupt Boston cop. She may or may not have killed a man. She hides out in a North Carolina fishing village and comes to love a hunky widower (Josh Duhamel) with a pair of annoying kids. Their coupling is somewhat restrained given the sudsy context; they don't kiss until close to an hour in. What benefited the film was having a dangerous external threat, the corrupt cop, circling in. This alone raised the stakes of what ordinarily would be a pleasant but mostly mild romance between two pretty people. However, it is that third act, the concluding half hour, where Safe Haven just loses its mind. One twist is a given, though it makes the Boston PD look either incompetent or collusive, but the final twist comes out of nowhere, bringing in a supernatural factor that left me gob smacked. All I kept repeating was, "What?" It's such a contrived, immediately stupid twist ending, trying to bridge a simple romance with something like The Sixth Sense. I can't say whether the twist existed in Sparks source material, but wherever it originated, I can predict you won't find a dumber twist ending to a film all year. Safe Haven is two part of a good-looking albeit mediocre movie with a final dash of half-baked lunacy.

Nate's Grade: C-
Super Reviewer
½ July 2, 2013
This newest entry in the Nicholas Sparks books-turned-movies is probably one of the better sappy romances to have been released in the past few years, but that is not saying much. As a woman escapes from her horrible marriage and fleas to another country, police search high and low for her as she rebuilds her life as a waitress, who falls in love with a convenience store owner who has recently lost his wife. There are dumb plot points, a clever albeit predictable twist, and some hammy dialogue, but I can't say I thought anything was particularly bad about it. Every cliche and dumb plot point/twist aside, "Safe Haven" is not a bad movie, but I would never recommend it. It's a fine watch if you don't mind being slapped in the face a few times with some foamed in scenes to drag the story along.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2013
Wow. This was seriously ridiculous, even for a Nicholas Sparks movie. But on a plane, no one can hear you cackle.
Super Reviewer
½ May 30, 2013
"Safe Haven" is the latest Nicolas Sparks adaptation, and stars Julliene Hough. She's a woman on the run from her husband, when she comes across a small seaside town and tries to create a new life with a new identity. She starts a relationship with Josh Dehumal, a widower with two kids. Things seem to be going good until her husband catches up with her and her true identity is revealed. This being a Sparks movie means it's predictable and there are boats, rain, drama, and maybe a death or two. It's funny when watching this my wife and I would mention every Sparks cliché we would see. "Oh look, their kissing in the rain!" If you do that, this movie might make a good drinking game. Having said that, I was bored with the movie overall. The acting isn't that good, and the story is "meh, been there done that". There's a little twist at the end, that did nothing for me. I think Emily thought it was OK, but this is definitely one of worse Sparks movies out there. I'm sure a lot of women will like it, but guys don't waste your time, it's not worth it, and I saw it for free.
Super Reviewer
½ May 14, 2013
Safe Haven is an overly melodramatic, over the top Nicholas Sparks adaption of his novel and continues his streak of bad movie adaptations. I've never read a single one of his books, but based on the movies I certainly wouldn't want to. Safe Haven isn't the worst one yet (I still think that is The Last Song), but it's still not very good. I'll go over the positives first. The scenery in particular is gorgeous and postcard worthy. The couple looks good together. Josh Duhamel is charming and likable. The first 45 minutes are actually solid and entertaining. Things take a turn for the worst at about that point, though and they never recover. Characters motivations make no sense, the abusive husband goes so far over the top it is completely laughable, and the final twist is manipulative. I've said it before in other reviews and I'll say it again: manipulation just to do it is awful and incredibly annoying. I've never liked movies that do this, even critically acclaimed ones like The Usual Suspects. I just see no point in trying to fool the audience just because. I'm sure there will be an audience out there that digs this movie (females in particular), but even my fiancé thought it was all ridiculous and too much.
Super Reviewer
½ February 13, 2013
Safe Haven was as predictable as they come. But I still kind of liked it. I have really enjoyed a few of Nicolas Spark based movies. But this one just didn't hold as much depth as the others that I have enjoyed. I really like Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough is growing on me, but I thought together they were cute and believable. The story is tragic and sad. You feel for Katie and the awful situation she has found herself in. The story of Alex is sad as well and makes you feel even worse for his kids. Who, by the way, were adorable. It's not the best of films, but still one worth seeing. I would probably see it again."
Super Reviewer
½ April 26, 2013
Better than some Nicholas Sparks movies, at least this one does have a plot and some darker themes. But I still felt like I was watching a Hallmark movie, and who the hell is Julianne Hough? No one who can act, that's for sure. I didn't buy her as a coupe with Josh Duhamel for a minute.
The good part of the movie is about 15 minutes before the end - finally some drama and scares! The actual end, however, had me reaching for a vomit bucket with that note, and actually I didn't get who the wife was until I read someone else's spoiler. She kind of looked different in the writing scene. So yes, fail.
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2013
I like Nicholas Sparks based movies. I thought it was going to be another The Notebook weepy but it was a love story with thriller edge to it. Great cast. Beautiful on screen couple Josh and Julianne. Good story - similar to Sleeping with the Enemy. The last few scenes were a bit off the wall.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2013
Adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, Safe Haven is an unusual and touching romantic tale. The story follows a young woman who runs away and starts a new life in a small North Carolina town, but her past comes back to haunt her when it's discovered that she's wanted for murder. The storytelling's quite good, especially in how it unravels the mystery and merges the plot threads. Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel lead the cast and have great chemistry together. While the plot is fairly predictable, it doesn't feel forced, and has a few interesting twists and reveals that keeps it engaging. Safe Haven is a compelling drama that delivers a charming and romantic story.
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2013
Katie (Hough) flees her home, leaving a bloodied body behind her. Seeking refuge with a neighbor, she changes her hair from long and brunette to short and blond before heading to the nearest bus station. There she evades Detective Tierney (Lyons) and takes a bus to the small town of Southport, an idyllic community on the North Carolina coast. In Southport, Katie takes a job at a diner and befriends general store owner Alex, a widowed father of two. She plans to make a fresh start, (and we know this because the tin of paint she purchases just happens to be labelled 'Fresh Start'). Despite her initial reservations, Katie's relationship with Alex takes a romantic turn. When Alex sees her face on a wanted poster in the local police station he confronts her, leaving Katie a choice to make on how to live with her secret.
'Safe Haven' is the latest big-screen adaptation of a novel by that literary force of nature, Nicholas Sparks, an author who I imagine woos females with the pick-up line "Hello, I'm Nicholas Sparks". His books, and the resulting films, ('The Notebook', 'Dear John', 'The Lucky One' etc), usually follow a similar template involving a mysterious leading male character and a smitten female who helps him confront his demons. With 'Safe Haven', he turns this idea on his head, positioning Katie as the troubled lead running from her past. For most of the film, the story plays like 'The Fugitive' meets 'Dawson's Creek'. Then things take a bizarre twist. Spoilers to follow...
I usually attempt my best to avoid spoilers but there's really no way to discuss this film without analyzing its two major, and completely ludicrous, plot twists. Throughout the first half of the film we see Detective Tierney harass the elderly neighbor who helped Katie escape. He even shows her a photo of Katie for identification purposes. Then, in the third act, it's revealed that Tierney is none other than Katie's abusive husband whom she stabbed when he attacked her in a drunken rage. This makes absolutely no sense for two reasons. Firstly, we now know he lives across the street from the elderly lady and so obviously knows she would know who his wife is. Why didn't he just ask her "have you seen my wife?". Secondly, at the beginning of the movie we saw him chasing Katie through a bus station with no evidence of a knife wound in his side. As if that wasn't enough, we get the double whammy of a final plot twist which has to go down as the "WTF?" moment of the year. Throughout the film, we see Katie befriend Jo (Smulders), a straight-talkin' Southern girl who encourages Katie's interest in Alex. Well, it turns out Jo is actually no less than the ghost of Alex's dead wife. Had this been a horror movie I would have probably seen that one coming but I never expected a Nicholas Sparks movie to enter 'Sixth Sense' territory.
If you fancy some unintentional laughs, 'Safe Haven' is a gold-mine, one of the most bizarre films you'll see all year.
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2014
I had a mixed to negative reaction to the film. It felt like I was watching 2 movies that didn't connect well (the romance and the husband stalking wife). The film needed a major rewrite. The tone was also off. The film reminded me of movies like Sleeping With the Enemy, Enough, An Unfinished Life, and Message in a Bottle. The big confrontation at the end seemed very predictable and not surprising.

I thought Julianne Hough was miscast here. In my opinion, she didn't have a good on screen chemistry with Duhamel. Another actress in that role, would have probably done a better job. However, Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, and David Lyons are great in their roles.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2013
Julianne Hough is on the run, and probably not just in this film, because as if ABC wasn't mad at her enough for leaving "Dancing With the Stars" to hook up with the face of "American Idol", she supported Mitt Romney, and you do not want to mess with dumb liberals as powerful as the lunatics at ABC. Man, I wonder if liberals are ever going to realize how unfair it is that the citizens who are publically representing them are well-spoken people of power whose sense lapses only when it comes to politics, while everyone recognizes us conservatives through our rednecks, old people who interact with chairs, and people whose tastes in films don't exactly reflect quality judgement skills. I'm not saying that Hough needs to clean up her act, but not even her characters make terribly good calls, as this film will tell you, because no one is safe on a beach in a Nicholas Sparks story, seeing as how someone has got to drown or almost drown at some point. Well, she is backed up by William Lennox of Michael Bay's "Transformers" trilogy and Maria Hill, who is in cahoots with the Avengers, so I think she'll be alright from David Lyons, whose only experience with superheroes is "The Cape". I was about to say that this film isn't quite as exciting as it sounds, but I reckon I lost you at "The Cape", if I even had you in the first place, that is, because really, can you even expect a Nick Sparks thriller to be all that thrilling? Hey, Lasse Hallström was able to make something as boring-sounding as "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" adequately entertaining, so it's hard not to have some hope for this project, which makes it all that more unfortunate that it should end up falling flat. So yeah, quality isn't too safe when it comes to this film, but neither is it in too much danger, thanks to some undeniable strengths.

You know that strengths are slim when you have to go so far to compliments shooting locations, but really, from what I can gather, environment is a somewhat major aspect in Nicholas Sparks stories, which celebrate their settings as story and theme components that need to be well-selected in the long run, and indeed are, for although we're not exactly hanging out in the Bahamas here, this film's Southport, North Carolina, setting boasts a secure warmth and subtle loveliness that helps in defining this story in some ways. True, it's often hard to get all that firm of a grip on the thematic value behind this film's environment, but if you bond with nothing else when it comes to this story, then you're bound to be a little connected to the immersive value behind attractive location tastes, and maybe even the engagement value behind some decent performances. Now, as you can probably imagine, there's very little for our performers to work with, so there are no truly outstanding performances in this film, with the underused David Lyons going so far as to be all-out weak in uneven, borlingly under-expressive, when not cheesily overdone performance, yet there are more decent notes to this cast than I expected, with the lovely, but usually hit-or-miss Julianne Hough being, not necessarily revelatory, but worth commenting on in this film, as she convinces and charms enough to bond with her role and do the best that she can to sell you on character depth and keep this character study afloat. Hough and company are underwritten, but, with the exception of Lyons, generally adequate in their efforts, and a film like this at least needs that, being a sloppily written character piece whose characters remain well-portrayed enough to earn some moderate degree of your investment, almost entirely through the charm that all but saves the final product. Now, don't get me wrong, the film isn't so charming that it entertains to the point of achieving, at the very least, decency, and what charm there is is largely achieved only through sheer somewhat endearing ambition, but when it's all said and done, it's hard to deny that this film does try. Sure, the final product's efforts to escape mediocrity are to no avail, but there is something to like in the telling of this generally unlikable tale, and with that charm going bonded with the aformentioned strengths, - few though there may be - the final product comes out standing on the edge of genuine decency. Still, no matter how much the film tries, it doesn't quite make it to decency, being far from dislikable, but too disengaging to satisfy, at least on some level, thanks in part to, of all things, unevenness in pacing.

Sure, there have more more messily paced Nicholas Sparks films, but make no mistake, this film's storytelling is hardly all that tight, slapdashing certain aspects in a rather awkward fashion that throws off momentum, though not quite as much as the moments of slow-down, of which, there are too many, being achieved through anything from excess filler to repetition, and detrimental to kicks, especially when accompanied by atmospheric dry spells that further distance engagement value. The film is hardly boring, but it is bland much more often than not, no matter how much it desperately attempts to wake you up with "thriller" aspects at times that would be more effective if they weren't so superficially handled or, of course, forced, breaking through the relatively lighter moments in atmosphere with tonal unevenness that could very well have been thinned out if the film took time to flesh out its tonal layers or, for that matter, anything. Look, it's not like you haven't seen these characters or this story time and again, so it's not like exposition would bring anything new to this film's substance, but some effort has to be made to flesh out this story if it's to be all that engaging, and with this film, while development isn't thrown entirely out of the window, it is thinned out something fierce, failing to cook conflict enough to secure intrigue that is key in any thriller, even ones of this type, which play up thrills only so much and primarily meditate upon character value, something that this film can't even flesh out nearly as much as it should. Sure, there's just enough heart to most of the acting to keep this character study from falling completely flat, but, on paper, the substance behind this drama boasts few organic layers, and only so much expository depth, resulting in superficial characterization that strips away much of the genuineness within the humanity behind this character piece, and disengages you about as much as the histrionics that no paint-by-the-numbers Nick Sparks film would be complete without. Rather surprisingly, Sparks' dialogue tastes aren't quite as sloppily translated as they have been in other adaptations of his melodramas, but Gage Lansky's and Dana Stevens' punch-up is pretty bland, and that gives you quite the opportunity to meditate upon how most every other storytelling aspect is tainted with histrionics, which aren't so intense that the final product comes out resembling a soap opera, but are nonetheless considerable in their corning up dramatic depth with manufactured theatrics that are all too often much too manipulative to be bought into. It all comes down to a twist to an all but entirely superfluous subplot involving Cobie Smulders that is just plain laughable, contradicting the film's general tone and themes in such a ludicrous fashion that you really have do have to see to believe, and yet, with that said, you can still see such a lame turn of events if you look close enough, because this film is too superficial to not be easy to deconstruct, and I guess that would be fine and all, if the last chunks of meat to this bone-dry project weren't firmly plucked off by, of course, genericisms. The film is trite, same as most every effort pertaining to Nick Sparks, and that thoroughly reflects the final product's having very little, if anything in the way of guts, being not so lame that it can't almost be saved as decent by what few strengths it has, but ultimately too undercooked to be all that effective or memorable, thus resulting in a fluff piece that meanders along and eventually collapses into pure and simple mediocrity.

Bottom line, the film's lovely, somewhat definitive locations catch your eyes, while some reasonably decent performances catch some degree of your investment, or at least supplement the moderate degree of charm that almost saves the final product as decent, but can't quite fully work past the offputting unevenness in pacing and tone, expository shortcomings, histrionic superficiality and, of course, intense genericisms that make "Safe Haven" a mediocre effort that could have been decent, but ends up falling flat as forgettably trite.

2.25/5 - Mediocre
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2013
Love might mean never having to say you're sorry, but this slice of heaving, er, Haven still has a lot to apologize for. "Life is full of second chances." At least, that's what actress Colbie Smulders tells co-star Julianne Hough, who's looking for a fresh start and clean slate. This seems like a bit of a contradiction though because novelist/screenwriter Nicholas Sparks has been turning out twists on the same love story again and again. This one at least dabbles with becoming a crime-thriller before the inevitable coupling of two star-crossed beautiful people. Despite tinkering with the formula, however, Sparks still throws in his obligatory death scene during the climax. Oh, this is a spoiler? Why don't you just write it in your Notebook and take a long Walk to Remember off of a short pier.

In this PG-13-rated drama, a young woman with a mysterious past (Hough) ends up in seaside North Carolina where her attraction to a single dad (Duhamel) forces her to stop running.

"There's no safer place in the world than right here with me." Apparently, actor Josh Duhamel wasn't sitting in the same theater as me. Oh, this soapy romance plays it Safe...only too safe, stuck firmly in Sparks' predictable sudsy wheelhouse. Julianne Hough builds upon the great promise shown in Footloose and Rock of Ages while Josh Duhamel does his best Josh Duhamel imitation. Together, however, they do throw some, ahem, Sparks. This and an interesting twist at the end save the flick from completely deserving a Dear John letter from moviegoers.

Bottom line: The Yucky One.
Christopher O.
Super Reviewer
½ September 22, 2014
Was enjoying it and then a stupid cheesy ending made me laugh and ruined the experience. The leads are appealing enough and it did get suspenseful but then it got too cute for its own good. Date Movie night became a bust and my wife felt the same way. 09-21-2014
Super Reviewer
½ February 26, 2013
Truth be told, I could watch Julianne Hough with short, blonde hair, do just about anything for any period of time. And for such a young actress with plenty of other professions on her plate, she nails a good portion of her moments. "Safe Haven" is another Nicholas Sparks adaptation and although it lacks the sincerity and thoughtfulness of Sparks' previous works (meaning I did not cry during this screening), it still attempts to hit those marks. Containing many telegraphed and laughable twists, the film falls shy of two hours long and loses all of its steam in the last thirty minutes. Sparks' films rely heavily on the chemistry between the leads and Hough/Duhamel may not be the best couple to come out of his adaptations, it was still nice to see. The love story of "Safe Haven" is worth the price of admission, but the muddling counterparts including the insanely bad twist at the end is what gives these types of films a bad name.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2013
Not a fan of this kind of this genre and normally would not go to see this paint-by-number Nicholas Sparks/Lifetime Channel damsel-in-distress flick but it was surprisingly enjoyable. Nice scenery and nice things to look at (Julianne Hough) plus two kids not out of Hollywood acting central. Would have given it a fresh rating save for the cornball ending. (2-6-13)
Super Reviewer
February 14, 2013
Formulaic romance pairing Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel with a distracting subplot.
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