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Safe Haven: Unable to Ignite

After Katie (Julianne Hough) has spent a week or so in the coastal hamlet of Southport, North Carolina—she'd settled in a cabin in the woods after lamming it from Boston—a neighbor reminds her that things are done differently on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Dixie states have been the settings for all of the movie adaptations of Nicholas Sparks's corn-syrupy novels, but Safe Haven, the first to mix in thriller elements, appears to have traveled even farther south, landing in a writers' room for a telenovela that even Mexican broadcasters might consider too outlandish. As the reasons why Katie is wanted for murder are being parceled out, the guarded Yankee transplant begins to soften around general-store proprietor Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower raising two young kids, who seem to exist solely for the purpose of being imperiled. Safe Haven director Lasse Hallström helmed an earlier Sparks-sourced production, 2010's Dear John, which was buoyed by the heat generated by Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, but here he is unable to ignite any electric connection between the leads. Hough emits all the charisma of a personal assistant, a mien as dull and blunt as the address of a letter (it's not a Sparks film without a healing epistle) left by a beneficent ghost, for which Katie is the intended recipient: To Her.

 
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