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Case Number 26931: Small Claims Court

Buy Nicholas Sparks DVD Collection at Amazon

Nicholas Sparks DVD Collection

Message In A Bottle
1999 // 131 Minutes // Rated PG-13
A Walk To Remember
2002 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG
The Notebook
2004 // 124 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Nights In Rodanthe
2008 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Dear John
2010 // 108 Minutes // Rated PG-13
The Lucky One
2012 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Safe Haven
2013 // 116 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // February 3rd, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan put his review in a bottle.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Romance (published April 17th, 2013), The Lucky One (Blu-ray) (published September 5th, 2012), Nights In Rodanthe (published February 10th, 2009), Nights In Rodanthe (Blu-Ray) (published February 10th, 2009), The Notebook (published February 14th, 2005), The Notebook (Blu-ray) Ultimate Collector's Edition (published January 21st, 2013), The Notebook (Blu-ray) Limited Edition (published February 2nd, 2009), Safe Haven (Blu-ray) (published May 15th, 2013), and A Walk To Remember (published July 8th, 2002) are also available.

The Charge

Will put sparks in your heart.

Opening Statement

Over the last twenty or so years, Nicholas Sparks has turned into an international brand. Publishing a novel a year (roughly), his particular brand of romance has women reaching for their hankies in near-record numbers. Unsurprisingly, almost half of his novels have been turned into successful films. None of them have shattered box-office records (at least that I could find), but they all seem to have a solid following among fans. Sparks, in fact, is so consistent that he's subject to parody (my favorite of which describes the majority of the posters for his books and films as "White people almost kissing"). Fans can now get an up-to-date collection (minus The Last Song) of all of the films from his novels with his Limited Edition DVD Collection. It gets points for putting all the films in one place (making it perfect for gifting), but there's very little here to tempt anyone to upgrade.

Facts of the Case

The Nicholas Sparks DVD Collection Limited Edition includes all seven films (as of 2013) that have been made from Nicholas Sparks' novels. In chronological order of production, they are:

• Message in a Bottle—Kevin Costner (Man of Steel) is a grieving widower, while Robin Wright (The Princess Bride) is a divorcee who finds the message he left in a bottle years ago. When she travels to North Carolina to find him, something changes for both of them.

• A Walk to Remember—Popular kid Landon (Shane West, E.R.) falls for preacher's daughter Jamie (Mandy Moore, Tangled), and their differences make love difficult.

• The Notebook—Noah (Ryan Gosling, Only God Forgives) and Allie (Rachel McAdams, Mean Girls) had a brief but passionate affair years ago. Now that they're brought together again, can they overcome their differences?

• Night in Rodanthe—Richard Gere (Pretty Woman) and Diane Lane (Annie Hall) are two older people struggling with past difficulties (he's alone, she's reeling from her husband's infidelity). A storm at their Outer Banks inn will bring them closer than either of them thought possible.

• Dear John—Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) is a soldier, and Amanda Seyfried (Lovelace) is the college student he meets on leave. Despite his deployment, they share letters that blossom into a life-changing love.

The Lucky One—Zac Efron (High School Musical) is a Marine who found solace in a picture of a woman he didn't even know while serving in Iraq. When he returns, he finds the woman in the photo (Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black) and tries to start a relationship despite her misgivings.

Safe Haven—Josh Duhamel (Transformers) runs a convenience store in the small town to which Julianne Hough (Footloose) moves. Sparks fly between the two, but her past comes to town in ways that may hurt them both.

The Evidence

The most interesting thing about this collection of films based on Nicholas Sparks' novels is that they're the closest thing I've found to a cinematic Rorschach test. It's not that you can figure out someone's psychological state from them, but rather that whatever you bring to the films will determine how you see them. If you think that films like The Notebook are the most romantic, tear-jerking films out there, then that's exactly what you'll find in the narratives of romance contained here. If, on the other hand, you think they're vapid, overly sentimental, formulaic examples of the same basic plot milking people of their tears, then you'll find that, too.

The major thing is that Nicholas Sparks found a formula and has honed it through his numerous novels. The basic idea is to take two people with different backgrounds and have them fall madly, passionately in love. Then something outside their relationship puts pressure on it—sometimes they break up, sometimes it's just difficult—and then generally they get back together and stay that way forever. Of course you can say this is formulaic, but that's what fans expect from Sparks, so that's not much of a criticism. To his credit, Sparks changes up the ages of his characters, giving us relationships of various ages (though all pretty much cleave closely to gender stereotypes).

Which leads us to this DVD collection. Though the continued best-seller status of his books would suggest that people still want to read each new iteration of his formula, it's been my experience that most people have a favorite Sparks adaptation, and it's often age-dependent. Viewers of my generation remember A Walk to Remember fondly, while I've heard from older viewers who love Richard Gere in Nights in Rodanthe. The Notebook is almost universally acknowledged as both the best Sparks book and the best adaptation. Which raises the question of what to do with this set.

Of course if you're a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks' work and you don't own many/most of these films on DVD, then his is the way to go: all of the films in one place in decent editions. For the casual fan, however, who likes one or two of these films, then having all seven of them is likely overkill. More importantly, if you already own many or most of these films, there's very little to tempt you to get this set. There's a "personal message" from Sparks that basically just says that having his films adapted has been a wild ride and he's grateful to everyone. There are also a set of collectable "postcards," one for each of the films that includes a line from the book overlaid on a still from the film. These cards are all placed in an envelope next to a large-style keepcase that houses the seven DVDs, and both of these fit into a larger cardboard sleeve that includes artwork from all seven films on it. It's a handsome package, but that's probably not enough to tempt most people who already own the DVDs.

The DVDs themselves look like somebody took leftover copies of the films from previous DVD runs and put them in a new case. For instance, I recognize the disc art for The Notebook's original release from 2004. What that means is that the quality of the films gradually improves in terms of presentation. None look really terrible, but Message in a Bottle looks a little bit rougher than Safe Haven. Since these films also run a bit long, with most over 100 minutes, and there are some pretty generous extras on some discs, there can occasionally be so-so encodes. This is especially noticeable in The Notebook, which is almost the longest and has the most extras on its disc; subtle shades in the opening sunset are lost in a sea of orange because of encoding. Again, none of the film's look terrible, but all but the few most recent could benefit from a re-master and more effective encoding. All seven films get Dolby Digital surround tracks that do a fine job keeping dialogue audible and balanced with the sometimes treacly scores.

Extras are the same as previous DVD releases. That means all of the films but Nights in Rodanthe (which strangely has no extras), Dear John, and The Lucky One have at least one commentary (and two on The Notebook and A Walk to Remember). There are also plenty of deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, trailers, and interviews for the films (except, again, for Nights in Rodanthe).

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I wish this didn't feel like a cash grab. The work of Nicholas Sparks is hardly my cup of tea, but I can't help feeling like his fans deserve more than this. A re-mastering of the older films, some new special features (How about a new commentary from Sparks on each of the films, or a documentary about him?).

As for the films themselves, they're not really my idea of a good time. What Sparks is trying to sell as romance often comes off to me as just creepy. Take Zac Efron's character in The Lucky One; it's great that he survived his tour of duty in Iraq thanks to this picture of a woman he doesn't know. We all have our ways of coping. Still, the idea that you would then track her down and try to have a relationship with her, after investing her picture with so much of your energy, just seems gross to me. Take Noah in The Notebook. When he first meets Allie, he asks her out. She clearly says no and is obviously not interested. Noah won't take "no" for an answer, so he climbs the Ferris wheel she's riding and hangs off of it, acting like he'll let himself fall if she won't agree to go out with him. Public humiliation and emotional blackmail (especially after a firm "no") is just not my idea of romance. Supposedly this creepy behavior is justified because we know that all of Sparks' characters have a deep and genuine love that's going to last, but I don't buy it. I think it encourages people to tolerate behavior that indicates that someone won't respect boundaries (like taking "no" for an answer) rather than creating a mature romance based on mutual respect and communication. Maybe I'm a spoil sport, though.

Closing Statement

The Nicholas Sparks DVD Collection Limited Edition is the perfect thing to get someone who loves Nicholas Sparks adaptations but doesn't own too many of them yet. It's not aimed at those who don't like Sparks (of course!) nor is it aimed at those who already own most of these films. Since it includes the same DVDs that have been previously released and the only new extras are a short letter and a few cards, those who have already bought the films have no reason to upgrade.

The Verdict

If it's your thing, this set is not guilty.

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Genres

• Drama
• Romance

Scales of Justice, Message In A Bottle

Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, Message In A Bottle

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Message In A Bottle

• Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurette
• Filopgraphies
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, A Walk To Remember

Judgment: 81

Perp Profile, A Walk To Remember

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, A Walk To Remember

• Commentaries
• Music Video
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, The Notebook

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, The Notebook

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, The Notebook

• Commentaries
• Featurettes

Scales of Justice, Nights In Rodanthe

Judgment: 81

Perp Profile, Nights In Rodanthe

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Nights In Rodanthe

• None

Scales of Justice, Dear John

Judgment: 79

Perp Profile, Dear John

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Dear John

• Alternate Ending
• Featurettes
• Outtakes

Scales of Justice, The Lucky One

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile, The Lucky One

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, The Lucky One

• Featurette

Scales of Justice, Safe Haven

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Safe Haven

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Safe Haven

• Alternate Ending
• Deleted Scenes








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