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Fans defy critics, wrap ‘Safe Haven’ in their warm embrace (SPOILER)

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk
February 18, 2013
Cobie Smulders, left, and Julianne Hough in 'Safe Haven'
Cobie Smulders, left, and Julianne Hough in 'Safe Haven'

If you saw “Safe Haven,” now in theaters, you witnessed a surprise ending that left many critics scratching their heads. But in spite of the latest Nicholas Sparks big screen adaptation (“The Notebook,” 2004, “The Last Song,” 2010) getting widely panned, a healthy dose of Valentine cheer helped “Haven” with a strong $21.4 million opening weekend.

Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother” and “The Avengers”) is at the center of the debate. She plays a woman named Jo who mysteriously befriends the film’s leading lady, played by Julianne Hough. It’s what we discover about Jo toward the end of the film that has critics complaining the most. SPOILER ALERT: She’s dead.

This plot twist has become the brunt of jokes and disdain among reviewers due to its seeming haphazardness. There is nothing supernatural about "Haven" until the aforementioned end-of-film ghostly discovery.

AV Club’s Scott Tobias gave the film a D+, joking that “Safe Haven” offers more than simply “sunsets, walks on the beach and terminal cancer —though all three are present in some capacity.”

Hough plays a woman who has assumed the name “Katie,” starting a new life in a small seaside town after escaping her abusive husband. (Eerily similar to the 1991 Julia Roberts film “Sleeping with the Enemy,” don’t you think?) Katie (her real name is Erin) eventually strikes up a romance with widower Alex (Josh Duhamel), and it’s at the end of the film when she discovers her new friend Jo is actually the ghost of Alex’s dead wife. Jo was guiding Katie to be with him all along.

Whoa!

This out-of-left-field supernatural revelation hasn’t deterred fan reaction – as raves appear to be dominating online.

People have even taken to Twitter to relay their favorite quotes from the film, leaving some onlookers irritated:

'Safe Haven'
'Safe Haven'

Yes, fans weren't wavered by the film’s ultra-low 12 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating among critics. “The cutaways to this cop-on-the-edge plot are jarring and lacking in conviction, and when the whole tortured mess comes together in a twist-filled third act, ‘Safe Haven’ becomes a full-blown calamity,” Tobias added in his review. "It's hard to imagine a blander duo than Hough and Josh Duhamel as they knock awkwardly against one another in their painfully telegraphed love scenes, and a third-act twist is unintentionally hilarious," wrote Emma Dibdin of Total Film.

Even Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers joined in the parade of detestation: “I hate ‘Safe Haven.’ It's a terrible thing to do to your Valentine.”

But no, expert opinion didn’t deter fans from flocking to the film which has brought in $34 million total over the five-day holiday – more than making back its $28 million budget.

The people have spoken. And they want "schmaltzy" romance, "predictable" thrills and surprise ghosts! Don’t be shocked if we start seeing more ridiculous third-act plot twists and less from “the experts” in the near future.

Watch 'Safe Haven' Theatrical Trailer:

Follow me on Twitter (@meriahonfiah)

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