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Cloning 101: A Study In The Hilarious Works Of Nicholas Sparks

By TK | Seriously Random Lists | October 18, 2014 | Comments ()


First, a not-so-brief anecdote: As some or all of you may know, generally I do not go to press screenings, and neither does Dustin and a few of the other writers. I like to think that this is in part due to journalistic integrity and a refusal to be beholden to the studio machine, but sometimes the truth is that I just can’t get into them or fit them into my weird schedule. As a result I have to put in quite a bit of hustle work to try to get into advance screenings in order to post reviews on Fridays. This means following specific websites, entering contests, joining email lists, etc.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from one of said lists offering passes to Safe Haven, the newest forthcoming film based upon the same-title novel by prolific schmaltz-meister Nicholas Sparks. At first, I dismissed it outright because I mean, seriously? Not really in my wheelhouse. But then I thought that perhaps I should take one for the team and volunteer. I mean, I review a lot of really awful, awful movies. But in many ways, I’ve dodged the bullets of the truly terrible franchises. I’ve never reviewed a Movie Movie, or a Twilight movie, or a Gary Marshall or a Tyler Perry picture, or really any of those abominable ongoing sagas (other than Resident Evil, and I typically bring that crap on myself). And as a result, no, I’ve never reviewed a Nicholas Sparks movie. Perhaps, I thought, it’s my turn in the barrel.

So I signed up. And just as I was about to email Dustin to tell him of my noble self-sacrifice, ready to hear him thank me and bless me and perhaps even offer to paint my house and pay for my son’s education, I stopped and re-checked the confirmation email I’d received. The “event” that I’d signed up for was actually titled “Safe Haven: An Evening With Nicholas Sparks.”

Wait, what?

So I dug a bit deeper, and here is what I discovered. It was not, in fact, a screening of Safe Haven (which stars, in case you care (and you shouldn’t), Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, and Cobie Smulders). It was… well, just read the description:

Watch as Nicholas and the stars of the film bring the book to life! Only one night in cinemas nationwide. Get a VIP first-look at your favorite scenes from the book translated on the big screen! Enjoy heart-warming, funny stories directly from the stars and filmmakers. Moderated by Maria Menounos with best selling author Nicholas Sparks, director Lasse Hallstrom, stars Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, and producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey.

Folks, I can think of no hotter cinematic hell than that. Needless to say, that email to our esteemed editor did not get sent, because the only thing worse than watching a Nicholas Sparks film is watching insipid sycophants and terrible actors blather on about a Nicholas Sparks film. And while I love this site to pieces, I would rather bathe in knives than force down that particular shit sandwich.

In any event, I told this story to my wife last night, much to her hand-clapping glee. She asked what the film was about, and my response was, “Hell if I know. I’m sure it’s a woman with a dark past and a guy who’s been hurt before and just needs the right person and someone probably died or will die and there’ll be a dark secret and then love conquers all. I think he just throws a bunch of cliches into a machine and pulls a lever and POOF! Story, movie, profit.” Then she looked it up, and I kid you not, here is the synopsis:

A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.
Yeah. So since we were already in near hysterics, we started looking at all the Nicholas Sparks films — believe it or not, there are eight of them — and were delighted to find out that virtually every single one of them featured some variant of that exact same plot line. Which perhaps does not surprise many of you, but I’ve never actually seen any of them except for The Notebook because, you know, Rachel McAdams and Baby Goose, y’all.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. Here’s where the analysis of The Entertainment Juggernaut of Nicholas Sparks, Smarmasaur Extraordinaire gets really amazing. Because as much commonality as there is between the various insipid plots, my favorite thing of all is this. Yes, I know this has been discussed before, but when shown all at once, it truly becomes a thing of — well, not beauty, but it’s definitely a thing. It doesn’t even need to be described. The posters are their very own punchline.

In chronological order:










It is, quite simply, glorious. Never let it be said that there is no power in an idea, people. Because Nicholas Sparks had an idea — one that he himself copied from countless others before him — and he has successfully built himself an empire by recycling that idea over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Nicholas Sparks has churned out 17 novels thus far, folks. The hits will, tragically, keep coming.

For more Sparks-related hilarity-that-kind-of-hurts, check out Josh Kurp’s terrific piece here.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Doctor Strom Kilwell

    Cracked goes even deeper with this.


  • Mrs. Julien

    Since he isn't going to see the movie, I wonder if, in the interests of journalistic integrity, it would behoove TK to watch and make observations on one, or more, of these films. Perhaps during the viewing experience itself? In "real time" as it were. What a capital idea! A review in "real time" could truly validate, or mayhaps contradict, TK's assumptions regarding the sameness of the plots, or the surprising
    variety created by the artistic choices of the respective directors and casts.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Truly, he is the Thomas Kinkade of novelists.

  • Slash

    The popularity of Nicholas Sparks (and those 50 Shades books) are proof that women aren't smarter than men.

  • Uriah_Creep

    And just as I was about to email Dustin to tell him of my noble
    self-sacrifice, ready to hear him thank me and bless me and perhaps even
    offer to paint my house and pay for my son’s education

    Just think, if you'd attended this evening, he would have had to pay your damn mortgage!

  • TK

    Nope, still not worth it.

  • Uriah_Creep

    The bitterness is strong in this one...

  • poopnado

    Who actually watches these movies? It is teenagers? I don't know anyone that watches them, yet they keep making them. Someone watches them. COME FORWARD. Who are you?!

  • Kay Gervais

    I've never watched a Sparks movie, but I did actually read one of those books. Don't judge me: I was driving my younger sister and her boyfriend (both developmentally disabled, couldn't drive) to the high school prom in her small town, stopped by Walmart to pick up something to read instead of driving back to my parents and then back again to the prom. It was what was available, in the days before ereaders and smart phones. I sat in my old high school hallway and read the worst, overwrought, repetitive, nonsensical drivel ever committed to paper. That this man keeps writing the same book and making the same movie, and people pay him actual money anger me beyond reason.

  • Mitchell Hundred

    I can answer this with a story: several years ago, my brother and his girlfriend, along with another couple, went out to the movies. The film they had initially planned to see was sold out, so they had to decide on another. The choice that most of them ended up agreeing on was Grown-Ups. And even though they walked out agreeing that it was terrible, all four of them still spent money on it because it is the kind of generic dreck that people will choose when they can't agree on anything else. This sort of thing is what happens when you make art with a view towards profitability, rather than quality.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    My absolute favorite part of these posters is the taglines. I created a few of my own and I dare you to tell the difference or identify the movie without looking.

    Take a chance.
    It's never too late for a second chance.
    It all comes down to who's by your side.
    Take a second chance with someone by your side.
    You know it when you find it.
    A story of love lost and found.
    A story of love in the lost and found.
    Behind every great love is a great story.
    A love that can't be forgotten because we wrote it down.
    A story about first love, second chances, and the moments in life that lead you back home.
    A story about first love, second chances, and third bases.

  • DeltaJuliet

    "A story of love in the lost and found"
    That's my favorite. I want to see that one.

  • michaelceratops

    I opened this thinking there would be more pictures of Baby Goose with that fantastic beard... now I am disappointed.

  • But, dude, OK, now I'm just really mad at you because you didn't go to this thing and we didn't get to hear all about it and because I didn't get to read your anger. That would have been an amazing post.


  • Pretty people fall in love. Then sadness. The End.

  • Mitchell Hundred

    In fairness, this is also the plot of 'Before Sunrise', which is a much better film than anything written by Sparks. So it can be a good formula, if executed properly.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I will never forgive you for not attending the evening with Nicholas Sparks. The hate comedy that that night would bring to Pajiba would be the stuff of legend. And you fucking took it away from us. God Damn You.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I don't know how events like that usually go, but wouldn't it be a good opportunity to call Sparks out on what you described above?

  • BlackRabbit

    I'm sure he knows. He probably has a crazy room with headshots of various stars and sits in the dark fitting them together for the posters, giggling. "Pretty lips, pretty lips, pretty lips....." I had to sell his books as a telemarketer for three bloody years. The scars do not fade.

  • bleujayone

    And like the elderly characters in the Notebook, most people after reading one of Sparks' books or watching a movie based on one of them, either quickly and completely forget about them afterward or want to die quietly in their sleep than admit they were a party to it.

  • LibraryChick

    Ah, bleujayone you need to spend more time in the rural midwest. In my workplace there is a long request list every time a new Nicholas Sparks novel comes out, and those waiting to read it are primarily middle-aged and senior citizen Anglo women. One of my wonderful younger male coworkers summed up the Nicholas Sparks formula in similar fashion to TK, as he was subjected to some of the movies by his older sisters. My other coworkers (female, ranging from later teens to under 35) thought it was thought his assessment the funniest thing ever, but we don't read Sparks. It's sad enough seeing how much shelf space he takes up. If it's any comfort, the same women reading Sparks now were also reading The Left Behind series back in the day, but those books don't check out the way they once did. In ten years maybe Sparks will truly be over and the movies will be too.

  • Kballs

    If the next movie is called Best of Me, does that mean we'll get a poster with some actor or actress horny-breathing into their own face? I nominate Helen Mirren.

  • Fredo

    They've been putting that "An Evening with the stars of Safe Haven" promo on every movie screening I've gone to over the holidays. So as soon as you started telling us about signing up for the screening,I kinda new what level of hell you'd signed up for.

    As for Sparks and his Matryoshka doll-like works, the best thing I can say for them is that their insipid, milquetoast quality ought to ensure that they are on heavy rotation on some third-rate Lifetime wannabe for the next 100 years. That said, they are just as emotionally-manipulative and disgusting as the 50 Shades of Grey books.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Kind of ironic that a guy named Sparks would be such a huge fan of water.

  • I love that your confusion between Message in a Bottle and The Notebook proves your point.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Huh, that's the oddest I've ever seen someone spell 'cancerous'

  • KatSings

    "I’ve never actually seen any of them except for Message In A Bottle because, you know, Rachel McAdams and Baby Goose, y’all."

    I think you mean The Notebook. Unless that was intended as a joke, in which case, my bad.

    I've never seen a single one of these, but I've read a lot of the source material. I maintain that The Notebook is a beautiful novel (and a movie I skipped because of the changes they made), and I know y'all will judge me for it, but I don't care. The rest of them are pretty much terrible.

  • TK

    HA HA! It was a trap, to see who has actually seen them both! MUHAHAHAHA!

    (noted and corrected)

  • Mrs. Julien

    Since he isn't going to see the movie, I wonder if, in the interests of journalistic integrity, it would behoove TK to watch and make observations on one, or more, of these films. Perhaps during the viewing experience itself? In "real time" as it were. What a capital idea! A review in "real time" could truly validate, or mayhaps contradict, TK's assumptions regarding the sameness of the plots, or the surprising variety created by the artistic choices of the respective directors and casts.

  • Jezzer


  • Mrcreosote

    Also you know there would be gnashing of teeth and rendng of garments. It would be ah-mahz-ing.

  • zeke_the_pig


  • Mrs. Julien

    I'd be willing to supply to Scotch and popcorn.

  • zeke_the_pig

    I'd withhold the Scotch. It's not a Sparks experience without the searing, un-numbed pain.

  • Mrs. Julien

    But the bottles of scotch are how I buy "yard time" outside of TK's basement.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Oh, is that where your Disqus starts fucking up? Bad reception down there, huh? Alright fine, I suppose you deserve your yard time.

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