Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel star in Nicholas Sparks’s latest big-screen adaptation Safe Haven. On par with Sparks’s other films, Duhamel and Hough have fabulous chemistry. However, even that cannot save this movie from predictability and pretension.
Hough plays battered wife Erin Tierney, who flees to Southport, North Carolina, to escape her abusive and alcoholic husband. She changes her name to Katie Feldman and meets Alex Wheatley, a single father who lost his wife to cancer.
Katie and Alex begin dating, at the encouragement of Alex’s daughter and the dismay of his son. Katie’s husband is a police officer and uses his authority to track her. What transpire are Alex’s attempts to protect Katie from her husband and to strengthen their growing love.
The chemistry between Hough and Duhamel truly is off the charts. They have a searing connection prevalent in every stare, touch and word of dialogue. In that instance, the film soars.
Hough truly steals this film. She is the definition of a triple-threat: a talented, singer dancer, and actress. In Safe Haven, she performs with raw emotion and a vulnerability that translates onto the screen as visceral and real.
Duhamel also holds his own. The veteran actor, known for taking roles in highly anticipated romance films (When in Rome, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!), stays true to form as a strong, sexy and heroic protagonist.
However, the film suffers from a painfully predictable plot. Viewers can spot every plot point from a mile away, down to every kiss, tear and punch. Its only salvation is a surprise at the end of the movie.
Audiences can either look at it as a relief from the mundane pace of the film or a cringe-worthy final memory.
Overall, the film is a formulaic yet enjoyable romance romp. Viewers can expect to “awe,” “tear” and “smile.” However, the occasional eye roll is inevitable. It is the perfect compliment to a giant box of too-sweet chocolate hearts.