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Is “Haven” Safe for Guys?

January 24, 2013

Okay, boys, Valentine’s Day is coming up: Time to make your date-movie plans. I know, I know, you want to see A Good Day to Die Hard, but there will be another day to drag your girlfriend to that. There’s another movie opening on Feb. 14 that she probably wants to drag you to see, Safe Haven. I’ve previewed it, and I’m here to tell you: It’s okay. You can watch it and survive.

It’s based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, aka the guy who wrote The Notebook, and while its cast can’t compare to that weeper’s overqualified ensemble (Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands), it’s got a few similar twists that you might not see coming. The setup seems ripped straight from the Lifetime Movie Network: An abused woman with a dark past (Julianne Hough, who tries to put her own Dancing with the Stars past behind her) flees to a sleepy North Carolina town where she assumes a fake identity and falls in love with a hunky widowed dad (Josh Duhamel—who told him he could be a movie star?). Hough and Duhamel are blandly pretty and pretty bland; it’s like watching two sponges try to mate. But there’s an unexpectedly great performance lurking in the shadows.

No, it’s not How I Met Your Mother‘s Cobie Smulders as Hough’s lonely galpal, although I’ve got a joke about her role that I wish I could share but it’d spoil the whole movie. Rather, it’s David Lyons, an actor who made no impression on me in his three NBC drama gigs (ER, The Cape and Revolution). As a cop obsessed with tracking down Hough, he explosively channels Mickey Rourke in Body Heat and Ray Liotta in Something Wild, with a bit of his Aussie countryman Heath Ledger’s Joker for good measure. Director Lasse Hallstrom (the skilled craftsman behind My Life as a Dog and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) lets Lyons go wild, and every time he’s on screen, the movie sparks to life.

So, gentlemen, find something else to occupy your mind during the scenes when Lyons isn’t on screen (I found myself trying to remember the names of every member of the Carver High School basketball team on The White Shadow), and you’ll be safe. But if your girlfriend wants to see Beautiful Creatures, you’re on your own, buddy.

What are your Valentine’s Day moviegoing plans? Post a comment!

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