This was a great weekend for movies at home. There was the "Wow, that was so much better than I expected but what's happened to Harrison Ford?" and the "Nicholas Sparks Productions should focus on making films for the Lifetime network rather than the big screen".
I'm going to save Bond v. Indiana Jones for another day and instead focus on "Safe Haven" - a film that was probably a good read but fell short of being good. I am comfortable enough in my masculinity to admit that I have read a Nicholas Sparks novel - "The Choice" - and thought it was very good. I've also watched several of the movies made from his books and understand why many people like them. Characters are emotionally engaging, there is sentimental wit, and true love always prevails. Again, I'm comfortable enough in who I am to say, "Go true love" and I'll root for it everytime.
"Safe Haven" however, was not up to snuff. Sorry, die hard fans. What follows is a bit of a spoiler but, as testimony to both the less than stellar story telling and my lack of wifi for research/fact checking, but not much - I don't remember enough about the film to really give too much away.
The opening was extremely well done. It was very clear what was happening and it captured my attention in a taught, compelling manner. I wanted to know what was going to happen and, while it was obvious things were not quite what they seemed, we didn't know how it was wrong.
Then it got both confusing and predictable. There was never any real challenge for the protagonist. She got away and then everything was perfect. Whatever she needed, she got. No work.
There was the typical Sparks seaside small-town. The typical boy and girl with personal issues meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Plenty of small town charm but no depth. There was only one twist and my wife nailed it 20 minutes in. The mystery of the plot was under developed and never really applied pressure to the protagonist. The police investigation was obviously not on the books - the only question was what the relationship was between the cop and the blonde. The cop could have been an outstanding character but he was under-acted and really nothing more than a stereotype.
The personal relationship between the man and woman was not portrayed the way you would expect from someone who was behind "The Notebook" or the one about the girl with the terminal cancer and her overprotective parents. It was far more "Dear John" than "Message in a Bottle". The man was good, well acted and consistent and believable, but it wasn't enough.
Perhaps the biggest dissapointment for me was the relationship between the woman and the oldest child. It was, as expected, adversarial, but the resolution occured outside of the story. They went from not getting along to being best buds and we didn't learn why. I felt robbed of the only the only thing in the story I wanted to see.
I didn't hate the film, but I'm so incredibly glad I didn't see it in the theater. I've heard that the romantic comedy/drama is dead and I'm starting to think it might be. For fans of Sparks it's going to be enjoyable while you fold laundry or work on budget spread sheets. The rest of us might want to just break out our old copy of "Pretty Woman" and reminicing about when movies about true love were something to... love.