10 Reasons why Nicholas Sparks movies suck
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There are perhaps many words adults fear, often relating to childhood trauma and schoolyard taunts, but there’s long been a quietly menacing phrase that has inspired terror in all adult filmgoers of good taste, namely: “Based on a book by Nicholas Sparks”.
Chances are you’ve encountered a Nicholas Sparks story in some way – either you’ve read one of his sweeping novels (the titles of which often start with ‘The’) or you’ve seen a movie or three (they also often start with ‘The’). They’re syrupy, paint-by-number deals that should come with a health warning to people with diabetes or lactose intolerance. However, they feature mostly good looking white actors playing wholesome characters with Biblical-sounding names, so somehow their existence is justified.
But, as the latest Sparks adaptation hits our screens (Safe Haven) I’m here to say no – not another Nicholas Sparks movie, and here are ten reasons why:
10. They are all the same. No, really. Like James Cameron’s cut-and-paste treatment of Pocahontas in Avatar, Sparks is on to a good thing with the small town romance. Basically, insert a small town here and a couple of brokenhearted battlers who are just too scared to love again over there. Did I mention it should be a small town? And that someone is escaping their past, or someone from their past?
There may also be a child from a previous marriage, who usually has more common sense than all of the adults in the room. There are often misty lakes and bridges, which make for idyllic places to live, but everyone seems so goddamn miserable, you have to wonder why anyone with an ounce of good sense would wander in and look to settle down (I’m looking at you Zach Efron.)
9. Someone always dies and it will shit you to tears. Because that’s just what you go to a romantic film to see – death and misery.
In only the slightest twist from mediocrity, Sparks is willing to kill off his heroes. (#sadface) This is, arguably, a redeeming quality, but as you have to sit through 90 minutes or so of sugary tripe to get there, it’s not exactly a fair deal.
Alternatively, all that means is, the couple of hours you’ve invested in an epic love story came to nothing, and all the warm and fuzzies that were manifesting in your feels suddenly disappear and you hate life, and humanity, again.
8. A sucky book will make for a sucky film. Look, before Ryan Gosling became ‘Hey, girl Ryan Gosling’, he was in The Notebook, and he was one of the few decent things in a film about the bullshit deal that Alzheimer’s is for everyone involved. He was cute and endearing, and Rachel McAdams was sweet and believable as a naive rich girl. And you could totally buy them wanting to get it on, but Sparks ruins it with your run-of-the-mill boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks trope. (Yawn.) And not even hot, talented actors can cut through the fromage, especially when ....
7. It’s always farking raining when something major happens. To be fair, this isn’t solely Sparks’ fault. Most films utilise the dramatic thunder and rain scene to intensify feelings and emotions, causing everyone to yell and gesticulate more than a theatre sports troupe. But Sparks takes it to a whole new level of triteness by adding birds on a lake (The Notebook) or a collapsed bridge (The Lucky One). I’m sure there are more, but I’d be forced to watch more Nicholas Sparks movies, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
6. Which reminds me: you can sniff out the plot and characters’ secrets from 50 football yards away. The stories could be a whole lot more interesting if they weren’t so damn predictable. What’s that, you say? You have daddy issues? You need to be somewhere, preferably a small town with a pretty lake and lots of birds, and just live a quietly anonymous life?
OK, so don’t fall in love with the town’s hottest resident, who happens to have a psychotic ex-husband. (Efron. Again.)
And don’t fall for the minister’s daughter, then marry her when you’re still in high school because she’s dying. (A Walk to Remember, a film you will be trying to forget, as I am now learning.)
5. Even the posters are all the same. Seriously. The actors are different, but they’re all still middle America, and their poses are practically identical. A man and a woman, gazing at each other with deep yearning and sadness with a burst of sunshine behind them. Don’t you feel a little insulted that not even the promo material is original? Don’t you feel a little like they’re saying,"Hey you simple romance fans, here’s more trite crap for you to watch, and like a sequel, we’re just going to change a few dates and places?" There’s nothing more comforting than familiarity, after all.
4. Sparks might be responsible for such tearjerkers as Message in a Bottle, but he’s also responsible for Richard Gere doing a weekend romance with Diane Lane in Nights in Rodanthe. No one needs to see that shit. And I’m pretty sure Gere’s character dies in it, unless the trailer got it wrong. Just sayin.
3. You will get sucked in. And once you do, there’s no turning back, at least until the end of the film. I know, because I’m a recovering Sparks fan. I liked his books when I was, like, 18, and thought people were nice all the time, and that romantic love wasn’t bullshit. And I thought small American towns sounded cozy and safe, until it became clear that Sparks’ characters are always suffering. Evil small towns.
2. It’s never a good sign when you can guess that something is based on a Nicholas Sparks book before the narrator announces it in drawn-out syllables in the trailer. We’ve dealt with predictable plot points, but there’s little worse in movie land than cheesy dialogue. And Sparks’ books – and consequently his movies – have them in spades. Usually yelled out in the rain, near a bridge, with birds swarming past.
Young Allie: What easy way? There is no easy way, no matter what I do, somebody gets hurt.
Young Noah: Would you stop thinking about what everyone wants? Stop thinking about what I want, what he wants, what your parents want. What do YOU want? What do you WANT?
(To be fair, it had stopped raining by then.)
The Lucky One
Beth: Why did you come here?
Logan: To find you.
John Tyree: No matter where you are in the world, the moon is never bigger than your thumb.
Erm, thanks, John. That’s, um, really useful advice.
1. You don’t actually need to watch the movie. This is because a trailer for a Nicholas Sparks film pretty much condenses the ENTIRE BLOODY STORY into a couple of minutes, including the previously mentioned revelation that someone dies. You also find out who the Good Guys are, and who we’re not supposed to like because they’re evul. And you know, no trailer is complete without the requisite orchestral soundtrack or country song (or a mix of both!), which generally tells you what level of the sads you should prepare yourself for.
So, in conclusion, save yourself the price of admission or rental, as well as your sanity, and just watch the trailer. Or go and make some popcorn and watch Dexter, which is an infinitely better use of your time. You’re welcome.
(Lead Image via FDC)