Safe Haven Review: If This Is Love, Then Cupid Can Go F*ck Himself
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Safe Haven Review: If This Is Love, Then Cupid Can Go F*ck Himself

By TK | Film Reviews | February 16, 2013 | Comments ()


I am not the target demographic. I am well aware of this. Yet I'd like to believe that I am a discerning enough critic that I can judge a film on its merits despite not being the intended audience, and as such, I went to see Safe Haven, the newest romantic drama based on the Nicholas Sparks work of the same name. It is not the first romantic drama that I have seen, nor will it be the last, and I will freely confess that there have been films of the genre that I have found profoundly moving and affecting.

This film, this hideous piece of treacly, diabetes-inducing hogshit, is not one of them.

Safe Haven, directed by Lasse Hallström (Dear John, What's Eating Gilbert Grape), is yet another in the seemingly endless line of Lifetime-Plus works based on Sparks novels, which as previously noted, are all basically the same. The settings may change, the more distinct plot details may vary, but the essential story structure is always the same. There is little about Safe Haven that strays from that path. Katie (Julianne Hough of Footloose fame) is on the run from her Boston home where she was involved in some sort of violent incident that is only hinted at through blurry flashbacks and dream sequences. She winds up in the bucolic town of Southport, North Carolina which is so achingly scenic as to seem artificial (note: it's a real town, and charming enough, but with enough lens flare and yellow filtering it is made to look like God's vacation spot). Working at the local convenience store is Alex (Josh Duhamel -- Transformers, Transformers II: Now With More Racism, and Transformers III: Seriously, What The Fuck), the adorable widower with two precocious kids who lost his wife to The Cancer a few years back, and is slowly trying to find his place in the world and maybe, just maybe, find the right person to help fill the hole in his heart and I just vomited up something black and scary-looking because Jesus, seriously?

Anyway, despite Katie being anxious about meeting new people and putting down roots, she finds herself slowly becoming enamored of Southport and its denizens, including her quirky neighbor Jo (Cobie Smulders) and the kindly restaurant owner who gives her a job whose name I forget because it so doesn't matter. None of it matters, really, because the plot is so utterly predictable, so perfectly and almost clinically telegraphed, that within the first ten minutes the average ten year-old would be able to fill in the rest of the story. Safe Haven isn't a movie, it's a masterful collection of cliches so breathtakingly obvious and trite that it would give the Oxygen Network pause. I'm not even worried about spoiling most of the film, because if you can't figure these things out then there's a good chance you're either not actually conscious, or so stupid that you couldn't find your genitals if they were tied to your own hand.

The acting is resoundingly terrible, but none so much as the hysterically over-the-top performance of David Lyons as the dogged-yet-borderline psychotic cop who is trying to find her, sending out sinister APB's and even breaking into houses to track her down. Lyons sweats and shouts and lurches through his performance, devouring his scenes relentlessly, substituting skill or subtlety for drunken enthusiasm. As for the leads? Well, Josh Duhamel raises and lowers his eyebrows and occasionally shifts his mouth from upward to downward, and somehow that's called acting. Yet it's downright Royal Shakespearean compared to the mumbling and snuffling and eyelash-batting of Hough, who prances her way through the film with a performance that is utterly bereft of personality. The only things of any resonance about Katie's character is that her hair is very shiny and she has lovely dental work.

The thing is, Safe Haven is far from the worst movie I've ever seen. It's certainly not Footloose-bad. It's weak, watered-down, bland, utterly predictable, pointlessly mawkish and emotionally manipulative, but still, I've seen worse. No, the more egregious crime is how unbelievably, staggeringly boring it is. Clocking in at just a hair under two hours, it's an interminable slog, a film so gooey and syrupy in pacing and content that after a while you start to forget what the outside world is. You'll begin to think that all there is is darkness and light and flashing pictures of smiley faces and frowny faces, as the people next to you haplessly trying to hold onto their own dignity in the face of the poor decisions that brought them to this place. It creates a sense of camaraderie, as if you're all comrades-in-arms in the same tepid, endless vortex of saccharine, emotionally overwrought suckiness. Seeing Safe Haven in the theaters isn't so much a filmgoing experience as much as it is the physical embodiment of the death of hope.

And yet? Even that isn't actually the worst part. Not by a long shot. Its almost magical blandness isn't the killer, nor is the acting which is wondrously both overwrought and dull. No, the film is a stupid, boring, contriving mess but it isn't that much worse than the average generic Hollywood romance.

Until the final two minutes, when the whole goddamn thing takes a sharp right turn into Crazytown. That's the point when I literally laughed, so loudly and in such an ugly fashion that I would have been mortified if not for the fact that I wasn't even close to the only one to have that reaction. You see, all Nicholas Sparks films have a twist of some sort. Usually someone has cancer, or someone dies unexpectedly (or both). But no, not in Safe Haven. What it has is a motherfucker of a twist, one that I absolutely didn't see coming, and the reason I didn't see it coming is because it is 100% completely and totally unnecessary. It's pointless, it contributes literally nothing to the story and has no narrative value whatsoever, virtually demanding that you ask why was it done in the first place. Which is why, because I simply don't give a damn, and because I dearly hope that none of you are going to bother seeing this garbled trough of diseased clown urine dressed as a film, I'm going to spoil the fuck out of it.

Jo, played by Cobie Smulders, is actually the ghost of Alex's dead wife. The whole time. This revelation comes when he gives Katie a letter that she had written to her husband's future new love (back when she was dying) and it has a picture. I shit you not. Fucking ghosts, y'all. And that's just it. There's no reason for it. There was never any moment involving her watching over the family or anything like that. The revelation, the entire plot point, is completely purposeless. More so, it's so crazily abrupt that it's actually physically jolting. It's basically "holy shit she's a ghost, flashback, roll fucking credits." It's amazing in its almost mythic ineptness.

I am not in the target demographic for Safe Haven. The truth is, no one should be. There shouldn't be anyone on this planet, in this universe, in this realm of existence that we call reality, that should see this movie and actually enjoy it. It's drab, dull, and dumbfounding in its aimless and uninspired execution. The fact that it's capped with such a completely idiotic twist is not just the rancid cherry on this very special dick-cheese sundae, but also what elevates the film from just run-of-the-mill dumb and boring to transcendentally, epically, extraordinarily horrible.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Donna SHerman

    "Seeing Safe Haven in the theaters isn’t so much a filmgoing experience as much as it is the physical embodiment of the death of hope."

    Oh, TK. You've outdone yourself. *Applauds*

  • Gall09

    What a tremendous review. The hatred oozes from the page, and rightfully so by the sounds of it!

  • smek2

    Who the fuck greenlights a story as idiotic as this? That's what i'm asking. Fuck Nicholas Sparks, there are many people on this planet that produce shit and somehow indulge the illusion of creating something creative, profound. The thing that makes me wonder most is, that somehow someone actually dished out cash to make this a movie.

  • I can only solace in the fact that greed and laziness greenlights these types of films. They have no respect for their audience and sadly some moviegoers will literally go see whatever shows up on the screen on Fridays.

  • par1964

    I have a tiny, sad little penis.

  • duckandcover


    I was so angry when, for a split second, I thought you weren't going to reveal the twist. So. Angry.

    Also, if anyone gets mad over this review (still reading the comments): Nicholas Sparks says he doesn't write romance novels; he writes fiction where romance just happens to be. GIVE ME A BREAK.



  • Boothy K

    94 Comments? Now, that, my friend, is a thread...I've never read or seen a Nicholas Sparks blahblahblah and never will. This kind of thing makes me too angry. So glad you spoiled it for everybody

  • Do you think it's a good sign that the quality of casting has started to go way, way down the more of these shitfests they make? There was Costner and Lane, Gosling and McAdams, Keanu and Bullock, then....what? Miley Cyrus? Wasn't there one with the Potato? And now these two fucking cast-off losers--one of which is the less-talented evil twin of Timothy Olyphant and the other of whom is only famous because she's Ryan Seacrest's beard and he's the greatest pimp in all of Hollywood?

    I don't know. But maybe, just maybe, the decline in the quality of the cast means this will end soon. This is scraping the mud underneath the bottom of the barrel.

  • duckandcover

    There was MORE THAN ONE with Potato.

  • That hurts my brain space.

  • Rochelle

    Tragically, there is a Tyler Perry movie coming out this year that makes this shit look good.

  • e jerry powell

    I've asked before, but it bears repeating:

    Why is Josh Duhamel?

  • I think abs and half-hearted smil help him breeze through the casting process. Plus, I think this is above Paul Walker's weight-class.

  • e jerry powell

    Well, that explains part of it, but hardly all of it.

  • BWeaves

    "Which is why, because I simply don’t give a damn, and because I dearly
    hope that none of you are going to bother seeing this garbled trough of
    diseased clown urine dressed as a film, I’m going to spoil the fuck out
    of it."

    YES! Thank you, and WTF? THAT was the twist? Bwa-hahahahahha.

  • If only it was as well-written as this review. Seriously, I laughed out loud at several parts, well done.

  • OldSchool60

    ALL bad movies should be spoiled.
    There should even be a special word for it.
    "The Pajiba Spoil"..."Spoil-jiba"[?]...
    I need some help here. Let's have a contest!

  • How about "Puhjeebed." Even when a movie would be enjoyed by a reader, if Pajiba gives it a bad review then one tends not to see it because it's been Puhjeebed.

  • Lindsey Gregory

    Why is Hollywood trying to make the lesser-Hough happen??

  • bonnie

    TK: you, sir, are a national treasure. Please recap ALL the things.

  • Holly Martins

    This makes me want to watch some vintage John Woo.

  • prairiegirl

    I saw the trailer for this over the weekend and my friend and I both turned to one another and said, "Sleeping with the Enemy". It seems like a total retread of that early 90's movie with Julia Roberts faking her death and starting a new life, meeting a heartthrob, and later tracked down mercilessly by her abusive, deranged husband. Or maybe that's just us.

    Regardless, Sparks is a hack and I have yet to watch a single one of his movies. I read one book and that was more than enough to last a lifetime. Sorry you drew the short straw on this one, TK.

  • TK

    THAT'S IT. Motherfuck. The entire time I was watching it I was thinking that it was a ripoff of something else but I couldn't put my finger on it. Sleeping With The Enemy. Yes. Thank you.

  • prairiegirl

    Happy to oblige, sir.

  • Cherith Cutestory

    This is such a great review of such a terrible movie...TK proves that you can, in fact, polish a turd.

  • You can then put it in a silk purse made from a sow's ear and have a very special medicine pouch.

  • TheKoiPolloi

    I have just realized that Nicholas Sparks is the literary version of Thomas Kinkade.

  • Bodhi

    I have been saying that for YEARS. There was a Thomas Kincaide "gallery" in the downtown area of my hometown & I used stand in front of the windows & LOUDLY talk shit about the "paintings".

  • True_Blue

    The local mall (to which I go regularly because it has a train ride my little nephews love) used to have a Thomas Kincaid store (I refuse to call it a gallery). Officially it was called the "village" gallery (I live in SoCal, there is no @#$%% village here). And the painting in prominent display at the front had a picture of US Presidents playing poker, done in the style of dogs playing poker (except that this was not painted on velvet, and none of the presidents featured was cheating). The presidents were: Lincoln, T.R., Ike, Dubya and the most prominently, Reagan. Yeah, obviously they expected to sell this POS to Republicans who wouldn't know art even if it came and bit them on their collective butts.

  • BWeaves

    Oh, shit. I thought they were the same person.

  • BlackRabbit

    It is the same person. He's a polymath of crap with a secret identity.

  • TheKoiPolloi

    I love that you spoiled it. In fact I went into this review hoping and praying you would spoil it. But I need to know: who dies? It's Nicholas Sparks, so there can be no happy ending. WHO DIES????

  • I am not the target demographic.

    Greatest. Understatement. Ever.

    This film, this hideous piece of treacly, diabetes-inducing hogshit, is not one of them.

    That's more like it.

  • Cerebral Vortex

    As a Canadian, I often think "Thanks, USA - we give you Margaret Atwood and Micheal Ondattje and you give us Stephanie Meyers and Nicholas Sparks. I hope you all get canker sores." But I have to say TK, with this review, you have more than made up for it all. You, sir, are a demi-god. You would be a full on god if you had somehow thrown Danielle Steel under the bus as well. Maybe next time.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Yeah, but you have also given the world Nickelback, Celine Dion, and Justin Bieber.

  • Cerebral Vortex

    I was only talking writers. (Not that anybody is going to mistake Sparks for a real writer.) Please, let's not branch out to other forms of media, or I'll be forced to mention the Kardashians and Paris Hilton and it's game over.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Thank you for taking them. We didn't want them anymore. Or ever.

  • ,

    Dude, know your Sparks: SOMEbody always ends up dead in the end.

    Now I have a question: In that header pic, if she's a ghost, then he's just standing there embracing and speaking to air. Do none of the people around him notice this at all? Do they not think, that pretty young man seems a bit strange, I think I'll just move a little farther down the dock in case he has a full-blown episode and is packing. Or are they all ghosts too?

    I know, I know, I'm probably a moron for expecting "Sixth Sense" level of cleverly constructed ghost reveal out of something like this.

    And BTW ...

    "It is not the first romantic drama that I have seen, nor will it be the last,"

    This makes me happy happy. More TK rom-dram wrath, please!

  • That's Julianne Hough in the header. Cobie Smulders plays the ghost wife.

  • ,


  • ,

    Wait ... what? His new chick becomes friends with his dead chick? Do I have this straight now?

  • melissa82

    Cobie Smulder's the ghost, Blondie's the new love.

  • John

    I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures is reading funny reviews
    of these cliche romantic films. Unfortunately, this review was
    probably worse than the film itself. I don't know if your "style" is
    using over long sentences with a bunch of "comical" adverbs in there,
    but it's horrible. This review read like a freshman trying to impress
    their professor with their "wit" and "comedy". The funny thing is, I
    agree with the review, I just couldn't stand reading it. I would rather
    watch this "transcendentally, epically, extraordinarily horrible" film
    than read this review again.

  • duckandcover

    Thank God you're not going to do either.

  • firedmyass

    I bet you are just completely exhausting to know due to being so wrong about shit.

  • I respectfully disagree, as this review had me howling with laughter. Perhaps you're new here? TK's vitriolic reviews are one of the things to which I look forward most. Which is astoundingly cruel of me, when you think about it. I want him to be miserable so he can entertain me. Dance, minion! Dance...

  • Shoulda watched Muriel's Wedding.

  • Carrie

    This review is so delightful that it justifies the existence of the shitty film it's reviewing. Thank you, TK, for transforming poop into gold.

  • jollies

    Indeed. A modern-day Rumplestiltskin!

  • John

    I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures is reading funny reviews of these cliche romantic films. Unfortunately, this review was probably worse than the film itself. I don't know if your "style" is using over long sentences with a bunch of "comical" adverbs in there, but it's horrible. This review read like a freshman trying to impress their professor with their "wit" and "comedy". The funny thing is, I agree with the review, I just couldn't stand reading it. I would rather watch this "transcendentally, epically, extraordinarily horrible" film than read this review again.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Oh John, you are just ITCHING to be stuffed in The Basement, aren't you?

  • Tinkerville

    You must be new here.

  • jollies

    Yet, because of your double post, I was forced to view your review of the review again. And it was even more painful the second time.

  • Anna von Beav

    "Footloose ba-"


  • TK

    I meant the remake, dumbass.

    Unless you're actually talking about the remake in which case not only did we break up but I'm now actively plotting your death.

  • Anna von Beav

    Ohhhhhhhh. I see. I somehow missed the reference to 'Julianne Hough of Footloose fame' (probably my internal system of blocking things that are awful) or I'd probably have gotten that.


  • emmelemm

    Ha ha, TK called you a dumbass.

  • Anna von Beav

    TBF, he calls almost everyone a dumbass at some point.

    (It's generally pretty well deserved.)

  • Anna von Beav


  • Lemon_Poundcake

    Who, indeed? That made me laugh like hell. BASTARD!

  • tamatha_uhmelmahaye

    The problem is, whereas before reading your review, I would have had zero interest in seeing this film; now that I have read your review, I have morbid curiosity about it. Will I hate it as much as TK did? How boring could it actually be? Now that I know that Cobie Smulders' character is a ghost, will it be fun to watch the film looking for clues? Also, does anyone else see this ghost? DAMNIT TK, now, thanks to you, I kind of want to see this film. Not in the theaters, of course (well, at least in theory), but at some point in the future. Maybe.

    Of course, what I have going in my favor is the fact that I'll probably completely forget about this in less than a week.

  • duckandcover

    I have no regrets purchasing this at my parents' house, as they have On Demand and don't question my life's choices.

  • Tamatha, I had the SAME exact reaction. I say we go see it when it hits the dollar theater. You bring the snacks, I'll bring the flask!

  • kerokan

    You are so wrong. You see, Cobie Smulders had to be a ghost, b/c if she was real, what man would pursue J. Hough. Cobie Smulders is soooo gorgeous she obliterates any competition.

  • ,

    So it'll do $125 million BO the first weekend? Sounds right, America.

  • alone in the dark

    Probably. I work with a woman who laps this s*it up. She grows visibly moist when a Bon Jovi song comes on the radio. The transcendent experience of her life was seeing Bon Jovi in Mississippi. How f*cked is that? In her defense she's married to an emotionally abusive prick, so I guess this is all wish-fulfillment for her.

    That might explain Sparks' success--treacly balm for the emotionally-damaged.

  • e jerry powell

    That is disgusting. I have a high tolerance for the nasty, but getting moist over Jon Bon Jovi is a bridge too far.

  • duckandcover

    Best tagline for him ever.

  • PerpetualIntern

    It's always a good day when I reread the Footloose review.

  • Steph

    You guys, I live and work among the women who enjoy this stuff. They love it. I mean, I guess I should give them credit for reading a lot but it's always this "50 Shades of Twilight in Rodanthe" crap. Nothing remotely thought provoking. One woman called me a "book snob" for reading a John Grisham novel. It's mind boggling.

  • Girl, I FEEL YOU.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I'd say Sparks should just give up the pretense and cater to that demographic by making pop-up books, but I'm afraid that'd be insulting to children.

  • The catering is already done, he didn't need to go so far as pop-up books.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Good point. Cater even more, I suppose.

  • OdeToThee

    You had me at 'Cupid can go Fuck himself'.

  • lowercase_ryan

    This will make more than Warm Bodies. Fuck you America.

  • Mel C.

    This review is an all-time Pajiba classic. Thank you, sir.

  • Oh my god I can't breathe.

  • duckandcover

    Did you turn it off and then back on again.

  • Kballs

    I've lived in North Carolina and let me tell you there are ghosts EVERYWHERE. Always looking out for you even though you didn't ask for it. Leering at your sexual acts. Silently judging your decisions so that you just KNOW those jerks think they know better than you.

    Fuckin' ghosts, man. Get lost.

  • NateMan

    I find this difficult to believe only because I'd think a ghost would look around say "Shit, I'm dead and still in North Carolina? I think I'll go haunt somewhere else."

  • Kballs

    You'd think. But you'd be wrong.

  • Blake

    (Julianne Hough of Footloose fame) How does Million Dollar Dancer keep getting work? I guess there are no limits on how far "pretty" can carry you...

  • e jerry powell

    Let's ask Gretchen Mol, shall we?

  • Jensicola

    I believe it's called 'being Ryan Seacrest's beard', and as far as I can tell that shit is more lucrative than the ol' ugly-up method (tried and true by mediocre actresses everywhere, except Charlize, because she's amazaballs). I fear if they ever split Ms. Hough will fall tits first into the gonorrhific world of Las Vegas showwhoring, oui?

  • mats19

    When you are "dating" ryan seacrest the world is made of opportunities.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Think of all the extra time she saves by not boning him!

  • This is You guys should publish a hardcopy version of the greatest failures of Julianne Hough. NYT Best-fucking-seller...guaranteed.

  • Thank god you spoiled it, because you built up its stupidity so much that I may have watched this with a bucket of wine since I CAN'T STAND NOT KNOWING.

  • You took the words right out of my mouth.
    Well, except that I'd have gone looking for a recap or spoilers or something, because I haven't yet subjected myself to Nicholas Spark and I'm ok keeping it that way. And reading an entire recap is more exposure than I think I'm comfortable with.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I fucking love you so hard, your hate literally makes everything better. Ohhh fuck yeah Friday!!!

  • NateMan

    Josh Duhamel and Cobie Smulders deserve so, so much more than this. Why the fuck do people keep letting Nicholas Sparks write? And how does he keep doing this stuff? It's like M. Night Shamalamadingdong overdosed on estrogen. I'd like to think were it possible, the entire female population of the world would rise up and kick Sparks in his clearly ambiguous genitalia for continually underestimating their gender.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Actually, I would watch the hell out of a M. Night - Nic Sparks crossover. Imagine a world where a girl comes from the water and falls in love with a tormented psychiatrist played by Marky Mark, all the while they are pursued by a villain named Mr. Glass. It turns out the psychiatrist lives in a remote village with weird old timey customs and then it is revealed in a twist that he is actually dead and then the girl from the water gets alzheimers and forgets the whole thing. Also, there are aliens but the trees get angry and kill them with pollen.

  • duckandcover

    And then Avatar Aang shows up 15 minutes late with Starbucks.

  • Bodhi

    I would watch the hell out of that

  • NateMan

    You win.

  • mats19

    why does josh duhamel deserve more? Cobie I understand but Josh fuck no he's never been a good actor he was always eye candy and allllll smirk.

  • emmelemm

    Agreed. Josh Duhamel is outstandingly mediocre.

    (Timothy Olyphant, on the other hand, is a god among men.)

  • NateMan

    Wellllll, I enjoyed him in the first Transformers. But I must admit I was also confusing him with Timothy Olyphant, so yeah, feel free to kick his name out of the above post.

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