Troubles and a Treat
Having retired and sold his business, Doug (Treat Williams - Front of the Class) and his wife Robbie (Nancy Travis - The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants) are preparing to sail off in to the sunset on a long trip of sun, sea and treasure hunting. That is until their friend the Judge (Orson Bean) asks them to look after a couple of troubled teenage boys with no where to go as he needs them housed for a couple of days. Well those couple of days turn into a couple of weeks and those couple of boys also end up becoming more as the judge returns with a third troubled teenager. But the experience of looking after these troubled teens changes Doug and Robbie who become fond of these young boys as they help teach them how to be responsible and respectful, whilst helping them to turn their lives around.
As storylines go "Safe Harbor" delivers what you expect from the initial fear of Doug and Robbie's when their friend the Judge asks them to look after these troublesome teens through to them bonding and growing in to a little family. As such watching Doug and Robbie not only discover why each boy has issues but helps them to grow into responsible and respectful men is nothing more than obvious. And yes on top of this we get the changing attitudes of the locals who initially don't welcome teenage trouble makers into their harbor community but grow to like these boys as they watch them turn their lives around. As such whilst "Safe Harbor" may start with some drama at sea, a boat fire, Doug's own troublesome past and also feature drama from a nasty state worker wanting to remove the boys from Doug and Robbie's care the story really is the simple transformation of these boys under the guidance of Doug and Robbie as they all bond.
But being simple isn't really a problem as "Safe Harbor" is really a movie all about the message and the message is all about second chances. From Doug having been given a second chance when he was a young man to him and Robbie giving the boys a second chance this positive message is hammered home.
Now this is where you really need to be in the right mood as whilst watching the boys grow into men under the guidance of Doug and Robbie is pleasant, the nicety of it all can border on the excruciating. So whilst watching Doug be strict yet fair with these young boys as he teaches them discipline is good, the way they thank him when they turn their lives around is so cheesy and painful it makes you cringe. Let's put it this way I have seen subtler things done with a sledge hammer than the way director Jerry Jameson delivers a feel good ending.
But despite this forced, false nicety "Safe Harbor" is surprisingly well acted, or at least when you remember we are talking about a TV movie. Treat Williams restrains his performance and delivers the semi conflict of a man who knows all about trouble and knows these boys will mean trouble whilst Nancy Travis has that softness of a woman who having never been a mum finds joy in being a mum to these boys. In fact both Williams and Travis work well together delivering a relaxed and often comical feeling as Doug and Robbie especially when they discover getting alone time on a boat with teenage boys is impossible.
What this all boils down to is that "Safe Harbor" is a pleasant little movie with a nice message about second chances. It's basically everything you expect from a Hallmark movie and as such you need to be in the right mood to watch or else all the nicety ends up excruciatingly cheesy.