Although ‘Safe Haven’ features his name on its poster, you’d be hard pressed thinking this was a Lasse Hallstrom film. Having directed such interesting and unconventional works such as ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?’ and ‘Cider House Rules’, his career has since slid into predictable conformity. Helming his second adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, his initial talents are wasted in yet another celluloid pot-boiler. A very bland romantic tale, ‘Safe Haven’ is akin to comfort food – safe, insipid and leaving one with the guilty feeling of having seen it.
Arriving in a small town wanting to start a new life, Katie (Julianne Hough) hopes for fresh horizons. Initially this happens as she slowly blends into the welcoming community. Beginning a relationship with widowed father of two Alex (Josh Duhamel), Katie finally feels she is where she belongs. Unfortunately a dark past secret threatens her new-found happiness. Torn between her new love and where she’s come from, she must choose which avenue offers the safest haven in which to survive.
Picturesque scenery, beautiful-looking characters and a soft-rock soundtrack – ‘Safe Haven’ follows the romantic genre template to the letter. Add some ridiculous plot twists and you have a film amounting to very little. Its theme of people becoming trapped by the past is interesting as is how they attempt to move on. Unfortunately ‘Safe Haven’ is so bereft of passion and inspiration you end up caring little. Its descent into fantastical elements also doesn’t help in raising this anything above Mills and Boon level.
‘Safe Haven’ is made for a certain market most likely eager to lap it up. It certainly doesn’t stretch the brain-cells and nor do the actors stretch their skills. Their monotone delivery of the lines becomes tiresome although Duhamel and Hough’s characters have some vague chemistry. It is sad thinking how low romantic films have sunk since Hollywood’s golden age where style and sophistication where common-place. Now it seems drabness has taken over with ‘Safe Haven’s lack of courage in providing something new evident.
Yet another yearly Nicholas Sparks adaptation off the production line, ‘Safe Haven’ is as same as the others. If you loved them then you’ll enjoy this although those who don’t are left to ponder how Lasse Hallstrom’s once intriguing directorial career has ended up with him helming such banal productions.
Rating out of 10: 2
‘The Five-Year Engagement’ relies heavily on a genre golden rule. Having true chemistry between its leads is an important element ensuring the success of a romantic comedy. Many have tried and failed although ‘Engagement’ hits the mark. Having some wit without too much crudity the abundance of that special character quality ensures some depth as they march towards the aisle.
Working as a chef in a successful restaurant, Tom (Jason Segel) enjoys life with his fiancé Violet (Emily Blunt). Recently engaged their hopes of becoming husband and wife are continually dashed. With familial dramas and outside pressures delaying their nuptials, they begin to wonder if they are destined for happiness with matrimonial bliss remaining elusive.
Despite being directed with a heavy hand by Nicholas Stoller and being a little too long, ‘Engagement’ works. The fantastic duo of Segal and Blunt are the main reason as they inject genuine believability to their characters. The situations they face are very real with none of the artificial contrived predicaments befalling other similar movies. Their reactions to what transpires with their frustrations at their dreams continually being thwarted also allows the humour to naturally surface.
Segal and Blunt are ably supported by a fine ensemble. The collage of different personalities forces their characters to reflect on what they want from their relationship with the advice given either a help or hindrance. ‘Engagement’s story remembers to adhere to the ‘romantic comedy’ part with some nice touches and crackling dialogue effectively showing how much the couple care for each other.
With an abundance of much-needed chemistry ‘Engagement’ provides a diverting tale. Having amiable leads and a good comedic flavour, it’s a rare romantic comedy not out-staying its welcome.
Rating out of 10: 7