Get unlimited digital access to baltimoresun.com. $0.99 for 4 weeks.
Entertainment Movies

Sparks and surprises in 'Safe Haven' ★★

The new Nicholas Sparks movie, "Safe Haven," takes place in Southport, in the novelist's adopted home state of North Carolina. Southport is near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. So you know a murderous stalker will eventually arrive, in honor of Robert Mitchum in "Cape Fear."

It's a new wrinkle to have a Sparks plot so dependent on thriller and mystery elements, some of them surprise-dependent and therefore off-limits for the purposes of the latest two-star review of the latest adequate Sparks adaptation. Prologue: A desperate young woman played by Julianne Hough flees the scene of a crime in Boston, under the cloak of night, with a fiercely dedicated police detective (David Lyons) on her tail.

Assuming a new haircut and a tight-lipped persona, Katie gets off the bus at Southport, secures a job at the local waterfront diner in 10 minutes flat, rents a picturesque cabin in the woods 10 minutes or so later and soon begins trading cautious yet demurely smoldering glances with the local general store proprietor. He is portrayed by Josh Duhamel, and his character — a widower with two children — is the safe haven of the title.

Katie has something to hide; the detective has someone to find; Duhamel's Alex has some grieving to put behind him; director Lasse Hallstrom has some sunsets and canoeing montages to shoot in order to pass the time before things grow violent and threatening and then go calm and upbeat again, the way they do in Sparks movies.

I like Duhamel, and in her first straight-up dramatic role Hough does well enough, though her singing and/dancing career thus far has trained her to oversell, as opposed to sell, as opposed to act naturally. As for Jo, the mysterious single woman who befriends Katie: She's played by Cobie Smulders, and she too has a secret to reveal. You may find yourself way, way out ahead of her news as you watch the sunsets and the golden close-ups drift by. Alex and Katie's courtship, for the record, begins with a coffee shop chat on the nutritional merits of kale, moves on to a late-night dance at a bait and tackle shop and culminates in discreet lovemaking in the moonlit cabin in the woods. Sparks knows his audience: This is such stuff as paperback-rack and February multiplex dreams are made on.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Safe Haven' -- 2 stars
MPAA rating:
PG-13 (for thematic material involving threatening behavior, and for violence and sexuality)
Running time: 1:55
Opens: Thursday

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years
    Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Since 2002 there have been arguably 50 movies about superheroes. Arguably, because genre is tricky; it's often variations on a theme, and some variations are less obvious than others. ("Star Wars," for instance, a bit of a space western, is no one's picture of the western genre.) Oh, also:...

  • 'Beautiful Creatures': Supernatural love in a small town, again ★★
    'Beautiful Creatures': Supernatural love in a small town, again ★★

    When classy, pedigreed British actors go hog-wild under the flowering dogwood trees of a Southern Gothic setting, often the results are good. Just as often they're so bad they're good. And sometimes, as is the case with Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson in "Beautiful Creatures," they're simply...

  • Review: 'McFarland, USA'
    Review: 'McFarland, USA'

    A less talented and more shameless director might've turned it into cornmeal mush, but Niki Caro ("Whale Rider") has delivered unto the Disney corporation a Kevin Costner sports movie that works. Commercially? We'll see. But as an inspirational true story, fictionalized to the usual degree,...

  • Review: 'Song of the Sea'
    Review: 'Song of the Sea'

    ”Song of the Sea” is a wonder to behold. This visually stunning animation masterwork, steeped in Irish myth, folklore and legend, so adroitly mixes the magical and the everyday that to watch it is to be wholly immersed in an enchanted world.

  • Review: 'The DUFF'
    Review: 'The DUFF'

    "The DUFF" stands for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend." From that cruel acronym, we now have a movie designed to appeal to fans of the source material. Kody Keplinger wrote the book when she was 17 and a merry slave to high school clique cliches. But her sense of humor appealed to older readers...

  • Fifty Shades of Grey: Highly anticipated movie is tepid
    Fifty Shades of Grey: Highly anticipated movie is tepid

    Curious? The posters for "Fifty Shades of Grey" coyly ask.

Comments
Loading