Those not loving love stories find films based on Nicholas Sparks novels as close as they'll ever get to brain death until the real thing comes at the end of their lives. The latest of Sparks' heavy-handed, formula chick flicks is Safe Haven, and it's directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who did Dear John, which was also produced by Sparks.
Julianne Hough is Katie. She's a battered wife who flees from her violent husband and may have killed him before leaving. A persistent cop gives chase. Katie settles in a dinky Southern coastal town and gets a job as a waitress. She and Josh Duhamel, who owns the local market, make googoo eyes at each other, and eventually a relationship blooms.
He's a widower with two kids. The son is withdrawn and angry over the mom's death, and his daughter is a delight. Done by newcomer Mimi Kirkland, this is a child actor with a bright, bright future and, ironically, is a dull movie's only bright spot.
Plodding at the pace of ice melting on a winter's day, Katie's deadly secret and the single-minded cop's pursuit lead to the shattering, expected and predictable climax.
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Beautiful sunrises and sunsets and scenic panoramas of nature's best are a hallmark of Sparks' projects, and Hallstrom's film is gorgeous. So is his cast. Hough and Duhamel are beautiful people with perfect bodies and teeth and just the right amount of charisma. They're also both very good actors totally wasted in this complete waste of your time.
If you haven't guessed, I'm in the crowd that doesn't love love stories. For those who love this stuff, your sugary treat awaits.
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Stars: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel
Mr. Movie rating: 1 star
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.