NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

February 14, 2013

'Safe Haven' another Sparks adaptation that plays it too safe

(Continued)

Hallstrom and his screenwriters may be stuck with Sparks’ formula, but they take advantage of the geography, the leads and a couple of homespun supporting players — Robin Mullins is a wonderfully folksy owner of the seaside seafood shack.

The offhandedly charming Duhamel is more seasoned and better at this sort of laid-back slow-burn love than the still-green Hough, who seems too young for somebody with this much baggage. She is never more than adequate. Keira Knightley was originally talked up for the part and that would have made a much more interesting couple.

Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”) is playing a plot device and nothing more.

It’s a movie for people who nod their heads at the revelation that “Life is full of second chances.” There’s tragedy and heartbreak, in the past and possibly in the future, and a story that involves no heavy lifting — few surprises, and so “safe” that there’s nothing that anybody would consider “edgy.”

From “Message in a Bottle” to “Nights in Rodanthe,” that’s a formula that’s made Sparks rich. But some of us want more from our big-screen romances, especially a film released on Valentine’s Day.

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