I’ve hopped on almost every pop culture bandwagon that’s passed by. I hated President Snow throughout the entire Hunger Games series, declared my undying devotion to Team Jacob during Twilight, researched every fan theory concerning Harry Potter and even (yes, I grudgingly admit it) read the 50 Shades of Grey series. I have an undying love for mainstream guilty pleasures, which often results in adoring poorly written novels and their corresponding film franchises.
Except for one.
A few years back, I decided to indulge in one of publishing and cinema’s greatest treasures: Nicholas Sparks. Sparks is the king of Romeo & Juliet-esque romance stories, practically all of which have entitled him to a recurring spot on the New York Times best seller list, ten (TEN!?) box-office hit movies, and an entire section at my local Barnes & Noble. After reading A Walk to Remember, I remember (pun intended) being sorely disappointed. The writing was subpar and cheesy, the story was depressing and, for some unknown reason, phrases such as “anyway” and “as I said before” were repeated about a trillion times per page. I told a friend about my opinion on the novel and, after swooning at the mere mention of Sparks’ work, said friend told me that the movie was “way, way better.”
I watched the movie. I disagree. Rotten Tomatoes disagrees. Everyone should disagree. But of course, that’s not the case.
Here are the most common patterns in Spark’s books-turned-movies: a fascination with army veterans, some sort of tragic sickness, “true love” that takes about five seconds to discover and tears. Lots and lots and lots of tears.
The Longest Ride
It’s a cliche story about an all-American cowboy who simply needs to ride bulls because he’ll die without his daily bull-riding fiascos. Britt Robertson and Clint East… sorry, Scott Eastwood play two star-crossed lovers who naturally fall in love after approximately five seconds of contact. The main driver of the plot? Luke (Eastwood) refuses to give up his career, and Sophia (Robertson) just can’t be with a man who is in perpetual danger.
The movie was so corny it hurt. My favorite line? During a passionate fight, Luke screams “This is my life. It’s all I know!” Seriously, buddy? I’m sure there’s something else you’re really good at. Like modelling, or something. I regret having spent the outrageous sum of $14.00 to see this. My ticket purchase still haunts me, sometimes.
The Last Song
In typical Sparks fashion, terminal illness drives the plot of this story. After years of not caring about dear old dad, Ronnie (Miley Cyrus!) is coaxed by her mother to spend the summer with him in North Carolina. There, she meets Will (Liam Hemsworth) and obviously falls in love with him. Their complication? Surprise, surprise! Their clashing social statuses and Will’s lack of backbone. Judging the novel version is unfair, considering Sparks was approached to write The Last Song with the intention of it being turned into a blockbuster hit. The entire movie was pretty awful, but the most poignantly cheesy scene will forever be stuck in my head: Ronnie performing her moving, equally cheesy ballad, “When I Look at You.”
There’s also the part where Ronnie screams “No! Everything is not okay!” The line probably wouldn’t be so bad, if only Cyrus could actually act.
Another movie of the soldier variety, John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) fall in love in about two weeks (are you noticing a pattern?) and although consumed by their love, complications arise that tear the two apart. Who would have guessed?
Luckily, it’s implied that they end up together, to the audience’s relief. I mean, can you imagine wasting a whole two weeks on someone and not ending up with that person? My personal favorite of this movie: John says “You want to know the very first thing that entered my mind? Coins. I am a coin in the United States army.” It’s supposed to be a grand allusion to his father’s coin collection, but it comes off as just plain cheesy.
The entire concept is depressing, but Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling play a great pair, so I won’t tear into this one too much, but rest assured, it doesn’t mean I’ve gone soft on Sparks.