[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbHwSVx5OmYThis weekend I went to see Safe Haven, the latest movie based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. I hadn’t planned to see this in the theater because, well, I have a fundamental problem contributing to the financial success of Nicholas Sparks in any way. Sorry to those who legitimately love his books, but I’m loath to give the guy my good opinion because he has far more than enough for himself. But I needed to get out of the house, and Safe Haven started at the right time at the movie theater near my home, so I sucked up my righteous indignation and bought a ticket. At least I only had to pay the matinee price.

Did I get my money’s worth? Well, the movie did offer close to two hours of escape. Otherwise, I’d say it hit all the predictable points to mark it as a Nicholas Sparks original. In fact, let us count the ways.

The movie begins with Katie, our heroine, fleeing the scene of a crime, her hands bloody, her belongings stuffed into a plastic grocery store bag. After receiving some aid from a neighbor, she boards a bus headed simply away, a relentless police detective so close on her heels she barely escapes. Since I don’t want to give away a major plot twist, I can only tell you that, after watching the whole movie, I see now that this scenario includes a plot hole large enough to drive a train through. But I digress.

Katie de-buses for a pit stop and decides to stick around what appears to be a sleepy, seaside town in North Carolina (Nicholas Sparks point 1 – story set on the Carolina coast). There she gets a job as a waitress, somehow manages to rent or purchase a literal log cabin in the woods (where’d she get the money?), and meets widower Alex. Alex’s wife died of cancer a few years back (Nick Sparks point 2 – cancer kills somebody) leaving him with two adorable kids to raise.

Their love story ensues until, as you would expect, Katie’s past catches up with her. I won’t spoil anymore, suffice it to say that there was one tiny plot twist that I didn’t suspect until right before it happened. That particular reveal did answer a huge question that nagged at me from the beginning, but it also contributed to that gaping plot hole I mention earlier.

Without spoiling the movie, I can say that Katie and Alex do take a boat ride together, get caught in a rainstorm, and share a sweet dance together (Nick Sparks points 3, 4 and 5).

In all, the movie was okay but not something I’ll think about much after writing this review. Of all of the Nicholas Sparks movies I’ve seen, the only one I regularly rewatch and truly do enjoy is A Walk to Remember. I will fully confess here that besides the famous kissing in the rain scene, I didn’t like The Notebook at all, making me perhaps one of the few that feels this way. Safe Haven falls solidly in between my two extremes. If big action movies are popcorn flicks, I’d consider this entry in the Nicholas Sparks filmography a cotton candy flick; sweet but ultimately insubstantial.

– Jenna Harper

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High school teacher. Soccer fan (Werder Bremen, yeah!). Knitter and book-binder. Devotee of mathematical puzzles. German.