'Safe Haven' Movie Review: Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough Just Don't Have the Chemistry


Safe Haven, adapted from Nicholas Sparks's novel, is a florid soap opera coming out just in time to haunt you on Valentine's Day.

With a cast helmed by former soap opera hunk, Josh Duhamel, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Safe Haven starts out by giving viewers hope; the beginning is not that bad. Katie (Julianne Hough) is a woman trying to escape her past. She runs to the small town of Southport, N.C., to start anew. The sleepy town and its inhabitants begin to breathe life into Katie's day-to-day routine and we begin to actually care about what happens during that routine. Enter prerequisite, small-town, love interest, Alex (Duhamel), and we've got a love-story.

The bond between Katie and Alex's two children is charming. Mimi Kirkland is a standout in her role as Lexie, the very precocious and charismatic of the Wheatley clan. She is totally believable yet cute enough to carry a whole scene. Also, there was a certain electricity, a romance-novel type of flirtation that was enjoyable in the early portion of the film between Katie and Alex. That's where the cuteness stopped and the melodrama began.

Enter drunken cop on an unexplained quest for blood: Katie's blood! Kevin Tierney's (David Lyons) relentless character isn't terribly acted but his actions are over the top and totally unbelievable. He reminded me of the villain in countless Tyler Perry films: unnecessarily evil and dramatic without a fathomable fuel for his fire.

To put the cherry on top, there was no spark between Ryan Seacrest's real-life love interest, Hough, and Fergie's love kitten, Josh. There was no "Boom Boom Pow" and I needed that in this so-called "love thriller" to make it earnest, to make it take flight. The unbelievable soap opera odes and "vows to protect" didn't help this film, it was so cheesy it suffocated the flash of hope I so desperately held onto and ended up burying in a tomb of the tawdry, typical, traditions expected in made-for-TV-movies.

What works well for soap operas in an hour doesn't translate well to an almost 2-hour film that expects to be taken seriously. This was no The Notebook or Dear John. This was a prolonged episode of All My Children cranked up on a can of Four Loko.