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Sparks Notes: 'Safe Haven', or 'The Sixth Sense: Part Deux'

“Sparks Notes” is one hot-blooded woman’s deep dive into the Nicholas Sparks film oeuvre. Each week, we’ll journey through another movie based on a Sparks novel. Why? Because I’m a lover of romance and the gratuitous use of extremely well-made male forearms, and honestly, I have the time. So if you’re a Sparks fan, join me as we feel the love, mourn the dying, ogle all the beautiful people who moved to North Carolina, and cry … a lot. Sounds fun, right? Needless to say: SPOILERS ABOUND.

Yes, Safe Haven is the one where Julianne Hough sees dead people—or rather, one dead person (one is more than enough). The good news is that Josh Duhamel is very charming. So on the one hand you have Duhamel; on the other—an actual ghost person. I’d call it an even draw, but to each her own.

Safe Haven | Released Feb 8, 2013

Directed by Lasse Hallström | Screenplay by Dana Stevens and Gage Lansky, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Starring Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, Cobie Smulders


TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT-ISH: When we first meet Katie (Julianne Hough), she is a woman on the run (and a brunette!). We don’t know exactly what she’s running from, but she does have literal blood on her handsso we do know it can’t be great.

We also know that the threat is real. Katie quickly goes blond and takes off for the idyllic town of Southport, North Carolina, all with the intense Detective Kevin Tierney (David Lyons) hot on her heels.

Katie, basically a homeless person at this point, immediately gets a job at the local restaurant and rents a rustic cabin in the middle of the woods. As I mentioned, there is a character who turns out to be an actual ghost, but this, THIS is the part of the movie that I find hardest to believe. How does this woman nail down a job and sign a lease without any kind of ID or money?! I mean, you know this chick doesn’t have a guarantor. Does paperwork not exist in North Carolina? TELL ME OF THIS MAGICAL LAND.

Katie quickly befriends Alex (Josh Duhamel), town widower and owner of the general store, and his two extremely cute kids, Josh (Noah Lomax) and Lexie (Mimi Kirkland). Although Katie and Alex are both apprehensive about getting into a relationshipKatie because she’s a fugitive, and Alex because he’s bringing a stranger into his family and for all he knows she could be a murderer (GOOD INSTINCTS, DUDE)they fall hard for one another. They go canoeing, slow dance in a bait-and-tackle shop, and have stimulating conversation about the dietary habits of primates. It is the stuff of fairy tales.

But beware, Katie! Detective Tierney is still after you and very, very unstable. He uses some high-tech detective skills called “Photoshopping” and puts together a national APB for the now blond Katie, who is wanted for MURDER. Alex, of course, comes across the “KATIE IS WANTED FOR MURDER” poster at the local police station, is rightly outraged, and tells Erin (Katie’s real name) to get out of his life, pronto!

Katie is ready to skip town like a good little fugitive, but her friend Jo (Cobie Smulders) tries her hardest to convince Katie to stay. Jo is Katie’s random out-in-the-woods neighbor who has a lot of opinions about Katie deserving love and taking chances, blah, blah, blah. Can it, neighbor lady!


Alex has a change of heart and tracks down Katie before she can leave. He loves her, guys! He knows she’s scared and he wants to protect her. HE WANTS TO BE HER SAFE HAVEN.

In a Sparksian twist, Katie is NOT a murderer, and Detective Tierney is actually her ABUSIVE COP HUSBAND. The night we met Katie, there was a particularly horrifying altercation, so she stabbed him and bolted.

On the Fourth of July, Tierney arrives in Southport to find Katie alone with Lexie at Alex’s, and proceeds to douse the entire place in gasoline. Katie runs out to stop him, but pesky fireworks down river end up finding their way to the house and the entire place goes up in flames. Alex sees this happen from afar and races back to pull his daughter out of the burning house (we’re all swooning—but also concerned, I GUESS).

Meanwhile, Katie and her husband tussle over a gun, until finally she can pull the trigger and end this madness. Adios, Detective. This is great! Now Katie and Alex’s love can bloom sans baggage.

But, wait—there’s one more twist! When the dust settles, Alex gives Katie a letter that his wife wrote before she died, addressed “To Her.” (She left numerous letters, including: “To Lexie on her wedding day,” “To Josh on his 18th birthday,” etc. Surprisingly, she did not leave one titled “To Lexie, when your dad’s new girlfriend’s psycho husband shows up and tries to burn you alive,” which is pretty inconsiderate.) This is his wife’s way of giving her blessing to the new woman in Alex’s life. She also stuck a photo in the letter. Get ready, guys: ALEX’S DEAD WIFE IS JO.

Jo, Katie’s friend and confidante, is the ghost of Alex’s wife, just getting to know the new woman in the family. So every time Katie was chatting with Jo—IN PUBLIC SOMETIMES—she was talking to no one, I guess? And I repeat: People still gave her a job and allowed her to sign a lease. Safe Haven really is a fairy tale.

AND WHAT DID WE LEARN ABOUT LOVE IN CLASS TODAY? You can learn to love again. Also, paint your kitchen floors yellow. It’ll both give your Cabin of Isolation a shabby-chic feel and give you the ability to use the line “You want to come see my floor?” to stealthily invite the cute general-store owner in for sex.

BUT HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL? Like Josh Duhamel could save me from anything. He saves children from burning buildings, women from abusive marriages, and movies from being completely terrible.


  • Are the two main characters from different worlds? Not really. But you know who is from a different world? Jo. Because she’s a ghost.
  • Are there parents who don’t approve? Not this time! In fact, Katie’s parents would probably LOVE Alex. You know, since he’s not trying to kill their daughter and all.
  • Is there time spent palling around in some type of water-based location? Canoeing! In a rainstorm! I know it sounds familiar, but it never gets old. Thanks to Nicholas Sparks, I’ll only agree to go canoeing when it’s raining.
  • Does someone die? Tierney gets what’s coming to him and takes a bullet to the gut. Good riddance! Oh, and have I mentioned Jo yet? Cancer turned her into Ghost Wife of the Year.
  • Is there a wise older person? Uncle Roger (Red West) has an arthritic knee that correctly predicts the weather. Like a good Christopher Walken impression, it is the best kind of party trick: magical and functional.
  • Do the men perform activities that require well-developed forearms? Not enough! They actually give Katie a lot of the typical forearm activities: She paints, she spears a fish, she stabs a guy. Alex does, however, use his mighty forearms to carry his daughter out of a burning building. It’s not onion chopping, but I mean, what is, really?

Join us next time for The Lucky One. That’s rightwe’re getting our Zac Efron on.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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