Safe Haven (“My Take On Nicholas Sparks Movie Adaptations”)

14 Feb


Synopsis: “A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.” (Rated PG-13; 1 hour 55 minutes)

I saw a chick flick on Valentine’s Day! What did Adi think of it you might ask? That’s a fair question, seeing as we just got engaged 4 days ago and it’s V-Day. But no, not only was she busy tonight, but she had absolutely zero interest in seeing another dramatic, run-of-the-mill Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation. I’m like an encyclopedia when it comes to movies, but even I have trouble remembering which is which! No, I went with Matti and continued our fun tradition of seeing mediocre chick flicks together, although to call this one mediocre may be kind.

To discuss this movie I first need to reiterate just how typical and formulaic Nicholas Sparks novels are. (To be fair, I haven’t read a single one, so technically all I can be sure of is how formulaic the movie adaptations of his novels tend to be.) I’d like to share a website with you that makes me laugh as it shows the posters for all of the ones that have been made. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but perhaps posters are the exception to that rule:

Seeing any lazy patterns? I sure am! Four of the previous six movies have posters which are simply closeups with one character nearly kissing another, his or her hand sexily embraces the other one’s face. This is what makes it fun for me to watch, it’s almost like a drinking game where you can go and set up the rules:

-Take a shot when you find out the main character has a dark backstory which gets revealed as the movie progresses (Safe Haven, The Lucky One etc.).

-Take another shot when they first clash but eventually start something romantic (Safe HavenThe Lucky One etc.).

-Continue to take shots as one character meets the adorable child of the other (Safe HavenThe Lucky One etc.).

-What? There’s a dangerous ex who you have to contend with at some point? Take another shot (Safe HavenThe Lucky One etc.)!

Actually, come to think of it, the most similar of all of his movie adaptations seems to be this latest entry and The Lucky One, which starred Zac Efron as a rugged loner – if you can believe that description of the High School Musical star.

They seem to only be getting more formulaic (and more like a Lifetime movie) as each new one comes out. Glaring plot points make no sense. I mean at one point in this movie, someone is stabbed in his side with a knife, and within the hour he is running around as if nothing happened…what?! Guys might make fun of The Notebook, but it was actually kind of an awesome, dramatic chick flick. Ryan Gosling is simply a really good actor, Rachel McAdams was delightful, James Garner and Gena Rowlands as old versions of Gosling & McAdams were fantastic, and the movie hit every emotional note necessary to make most grown men cry (at least that’s what I tell myself to justify how much it made ME cry)! But whatever was original or at least done really well there, has mostly been beaten over the head by Sparks and the filmmakers, and there’s basically nothing subtle or original left. What’s left is taking the pieces of what worked in previous ones, and patching them together like a quilt and hoping that the audience will swoon and laugh and cry at all the right moments: Adorable child gives the laughs and the “awwwww” moments? Check. Lead actor gives the “oh my God he’s SO hot” money shots? Check. Moment where they inevitably kiss passionately in the rain gives every girl in the audience, “why can’t my boyfriend be like that” thoughts? Check! All of these things and so many more will happen, few if any will be original, and people will be excited to see how it ends because they’ve been emotionally manipulated to do so. But hey, that’s film-making.  I don’t mind being manipulated into caring about characters in crappy movies; I’m a sucker for a bad movie, I just kind of hope that people who watch can realize how bad they are along the way.

Lest I get away from what’s specific to this movie…in the role of the dark, sexy drifter played by Zac Efron in The Lucky One, this time around it’s the female character played by Julianne Hough being all gloomy and mysterious (and sexy). The role of the hard-working, trusted member of the town with kids who the drifter falls in love with? That would be Josh Duhamel this time around. And let me just tell you that within the first minute of meeting his adorable daughter you will be melting – absolutely melting – because she is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in all of its cheese-whiz glory.

What baffles me is that the director is Lasse Hallström, who made Chocolat as well as Cider House Rules. When his name first came up on the screen I laughed and exclaimed, “WHAT?!” He always made pretty, emotional, and slightly overrated movies, but they were still far better than Nicholas Sparks trash. This isn’t even his second one, he also directed Channing Tatum in Dear John it turns out. I’m not sure why he’s slumming it lately, but so be it. (I will give a small shout-out to a straight to DVD movie he made a few years ago which was actually REALLY GOOD. It’s called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. It stars Richard Gere and is about him and his loyal dog, and everything about it should make it crap, but it’s ADORABLE, and the best tearjerker you’ve seen in a long time….I actually recommend that one.)

Finally, I won’t get into detail since I refuse to give spoilers in my reviews, but let me tell you that there is a twist at the end which I didn’t quite see coming, and it was crazy. I mean absolutely, bat-shit nuts, it makes no sense within its own genre, and makes me want to find Nicholas Sparks and just shake him and ask what the heck he is smoking when writing this stuff.

The movie was better than…geez, it may be the worst of his movie adaptations. I remember thinking that Message In A Bottle was terrible and boring, so let’s go with that one. And it’s worse than Dear John, which I found at least somewhat more interesting, and with two more captivating stars (Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried).

Quality Rating: C- (It gets some points since it’s still doing its job in a basic way to create this romance, however unoriginal)

Boaz Rating: C+ (Yes I still enjoyed watching it, and making fun of it throughout)


12 Responses to “Safe Haven (“My Take On Nicholas Sparks Movie Adaptations”)”

  1. Adi Bodenstein February 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Wow…….that’s just….wow. Your review is well-written but damn does it emphasize the facts. This movie is crap. Period. lol


  2. boazconstrictor February 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Yes, crap, and yes I enjoy watching such dreck! 🙂


  3. Jeremy Goodell July 1, 2013 at 1:15 am #

    By some weird twist of Redbox fate, my wife and I ended up watching The Lucky One and Safe Haven on consecutive nights. Shame on Redbox for not including Nicholas Sparks in their movie blurbs; I had vowed to never watch another after suffering through Message in a Bottle. And although they may be chick flicks, my wife likes them no more than I do. By the end of Safe Haven, I was convinced that these two movies were made from the same book, but with some artistic license put into one of the adaptations. Your drinking game is hilarious, but doesn’t go far enough. You may also take a shot when a child is saved from certain death by their father; another when the ex (who’s a cop who just lost his badge) gets drunk and brandishes a gun; and one more when the requisite old person makes a knowing comment about someone showing signs of interest in the new kid in town. And why the hell did that little girl not tell anyone about the drunken lunatic asking about her new mom-to-be — that one left us baffled. The twist was off the wall, but we actually appreciated it as something NOT formulaic! This experience has left me thoroughly convinced that Nicholas Sparks has no shame, and has given me reason to look at imdb prior to renting any movies with a man and woman nearly embracing on the cover. I won’t be fooled again.


    • boazconstrictor July 1, 2013 at 9:21 am #

      Jeremy, your message had me laughing out loud at the thoughts of you and your wife going nuts over the bad luck. I think you must have pissed off an old Gypsy woman, because someone’s curse managed to hit you square in the face!
      Great additions to the drinking game, no doubt we could come up with a thousand more examples of repetitive cliches within his trashy novels. I’d even suggest that they DO come from the same books but simply a choose your own adventure variation where that same story simply goes in different directions, although at least in choose-your-own-adventure books you might run into a dragon or a wizard who suddenly kills you, that would be an incongruous improvement on his dreck!

      Please read and comment anytime on my reviews!


      • Jeremy Goodell July 1, 2013 at 9:43 am #

        If you want to drink more, add these:

        one shot every time someone almost or actually discovers the mystery behind the drifter (typically linked to a photograph),

        one shot for each new endearing trait revealed about the love interest,

        two shots when the relationship ends the moment the mystery is revealed

        and to guarantee getting thoroughly wasted:

        one shot for every scene including a boat,

        one shot for every scene including a beach.


  4. boazconstrictor July 1, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    It’s a good thing I prefer wine to shots or I’d probably die of alcohol poisoning!


  5. Jeremy Goodell July 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    In the interest of complete and honest disclosure, after reviewing the Nicholas Sparks web site, I realized that my vow to never watch Nicolas Sparks adaptations came about after viewing Nights in Rodanthe not after watching Message in a Bottle. I apologize for any confusion.

    Believe it or not, Nights in Rodanthe was strongly recommended to my wife as a movie she needed to see. Needless to say, she won’t be taking any more movie recommendations from that source.


    • boazconstrictor July 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      Ha, in the future you can have her get her recommendations from my blog instead of that unfortunate person! 🙂
      Not sure how you felt about The Notebook, but I still think that was the one exception, and really liked that one in particular, mostly due to the performances of the leads.


  6. Jeremy Goodell July 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Agreed, The Notebook may have been written by someone else. Perhaps Nicholas Sparks found it in an old briefcase he found in Paris. No wait, that’s the plot of The Words (good movie by the way). I plan to watch your blog for recommendations. I like to write reviews too, I have a ton of them up on Netflix.


  7. Jeremy Goodell July 3, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    Last night I watched Nowhere to Run, a 1993 movie with Jean Claude Van Damme and Rosanna Arquette. It was EXACTLY like a Nick Sparks movie, but with far more violence, chase scenes, and nudity.

    Van Damme is the drifter with the mysterious backstory, Arquette the single mom with adorable kids (one played by Kieran Culkin). At first she doesn’t much like him, but as he works around the farm and beats up the bad guys, he grows on her. There’s also a jealous jilted lover, who’s a cop with a gun. When the backstory is finally revealed by the cop (Van Damme is a bank robber who escaped from jail), Arquette gets pissed off, Van Damme leaves. But he ends up coming back and saving the day.

    Exactly the plots of Lucky One and Safe Haven. But no one would ever mistake this for Nicholas Sparks.


    • boazconstrictor July 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      FANTASTIC. I remember that movie, loved it, because anything that involved Van Damme doing a jump kick while doing the splits was a movie I needed to see. But yeah, I vaguely remember it being Sparksy, nicely done!



  1. The 2013 Boaz Movie Tally (Where Have I Been?!) | Boaz's Movie Obsession - March 25, 2014

    […] (I still resent that Matti moved away to the mid-west, because who else do I have to see crap like Safe Haven with now, if not him? The […]


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