Sentiment sabotages Safe Haven, with Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough.
SAFE HAVEN (Lasse Hallström). 115 minutes. Opens today (Thursday, February 14). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
Spending Valentine's Day at a Nicholas Sparks movie is as safe a bet as plying your date with a heart-shaped box of chocolates.
Like all of The Notebook author's screen adaptations, Safe Haven comes with globs of over-sweetened sentiment. And few directors are more suited to such a recipe than Lasse Hallström, the man behind The Cider House Rules and Chocolat. This author-director team is a match made in diabetic heaven.
Julianne Hough stars as Katie, a young runaway taking refuge in a small town with Josh Duhamel's widower Alex. The reason she's on the run is among the movie's secrets (yes, there's more than one), and it's teased and revealed with the delicacy of a stripper at a cheap peeler bar.
The mystery doesn't really matter all that much - it's a typical Sparks device to frame and then complicate the cooing and lovemaking between Katie and Alex.
Audiences can count on many more Sparksian devices: light twinkling against pretty faces, sun-kissed shots through moss-lined trees, a canoe ride that accentuates the sensual sounds of paddling through water, and a rainstorm that sets the mood for fornication.
The theatre will be so fertile with romance that it could pollinate a bouquet of roses.