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.”
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.