Let's start with something none of us wants to admit about a Nicholas Sparks vehicle: This is a gorgeous movie. Swede Lasse Hallström, who's etched out quite the English-language career efficiently translating beach reads to the big screen (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), does his visual best with Sparks' stuff, but the source material's a little too boring and predictable for it to matter.
Fleeing a violent relationship in Boston, Katie (Julianne Hough) — if that is her real name — hops a bus and decides to settle in Southport, N.C., a sleepy coastal vacation town that seems as good a place as any to hide from one's past. Try as she might to avoid letting her guard down, she quickly falls for Alex (Josh Duhamel), proprietor of the local general store and widowed father of two. (Widowers = damaged-girl catnip!) As the reasons behind Katie's abandonment unfold via flashback, Kevin (David Lyons), a Boston detective strangely fixated on her disappearance, inches closer to discovering her whereabouts.
Mapped out with a seeming disregard for the audience's ability to think one step ahead, Safe Haven never comes close to top gear. Hough and Duhamel (her in particular) are serviceable at best, making Hallström's pretty pictures the only real tradable asset.