‘Safe Haven’ is the latest in a long line of Nicholas Sparks books to become films

On February 14th, the film Safe Haven opens.  Based on the seven previous adaptations of books written by Nicholas Sparks, it should do well at the box office.  But before describing the film version of this novel, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, let’s look at the prior film adaptations of the novels of Sparks.

RELATED: Lasse Hallstrom brings Nicholas Sparks’ ‘Safe Haven’ to the big screen

They began with Message in a Bottle, published in 1998 and brought to the screen in 1999.  Starring Kevin Costner as a widower named “Garret Blake” and Robin Wright Penn as a newspaper researcher named “Theresa Osborne”.  Osborne comes across a letter from someone named Garret, addressed to Catherine.  She finds two more letters by the same writer and eventually tracks him down.  Paul Newman excelled as the father of Kevin Costner’s character.

Kevin Costner and Robin Wright in 'Message in a Bottle'
Kevin Costner and Robin Wright in ‘Message in a Bottle’

Next came A Walk to Remember, a period romance set in the 1950s starring Shane West and Mandy Moore.  West plays “Landon Carter”, a rebellious high school student who has all but ignored Moore’s “Jamie Sullivan” throughout their schooling until he needs her help.  As he learns more about her, they fall in love.  It was released in 2002.

2004 saw The Notebook become the third of the Sparks novels to be adapted as a feature film and is considered by most to be the most successful movie from one of his books (actually in terms of worldwide gross, Message in a Bottle did just slightly better).  Directed by Nick Cassavettes and starring his mother Gena Rowlands and James Garner as residents of the same nursing home.  Garner is “Noah” and Rowlands is “Allison” and he tells her the story of how a young Noah became romantically involved with a young Allie in the 1940s.  The younger versions were portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in 'The Notebook'
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in ‘The Notebook’

Four years later, in 2008, Nights in Rodanthe hit theaters.  Starring Richard Gere as “Dr. Paul Flanner” who has to journey to Rodanthe for a weekend to see the husband of a patient who died while under his care.  The bed and breakfast where he is booked is being run by Diane Lane’s “Adrienne Willis”, a woman who is estranged from her husband.  An approaching storm has the two of them working together to protect the house and they form a bond that grows stronger with the passage of time.

In 2010, two movies based on the novels of Nicholas Sparks hit the big screen.  In February, Dear John was released, starring Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfriend and Henry Thomas.  Tatum is “John Tyree”, a soldier home on leave when he meets a beautiful young woman named “Savannah Curtis” (Seyfried).  The two connect and when he goes back to the combat zone, they begin exchanging letters very frequently.  Eventually though, one of her letters is the goodbye known as a “Dear John letter”.  Years later after more military service he returns to find Savannah has married “Tim” (Thomas).

Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfriend in 'Dear John'
Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfriend in ‘Dear John’

A month later, The Last Song starring Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth and Greg Kinnear opened.  Like all his stories it involves two people very much in love, but in this case that’s set against the story of a teenager trying to rebuild her relationship from the father she had been estranged from.  It did well at the box office but critics were mostly negative about the story while praising the acting of Kinnear.

In 2012 The Lucky One was released.  Starring Zac Efron as “Logan”, a U.S. Marine who survives a night raid while serving his third tour overseas.  In the aftermath of the attack he sees something and goes to get it.  It is a photograph of a woman with the words “keep safe” on the back.  Moments later the spot where he’d been before seeing the photo suffers a direct hit by a mortar.  Upon returning home, he sets out to find the woman in the photo.  “Beth Clayton” (Taylor Schilling) is the woman and he meets her while hiding the real reason he’d sought her out.  Roundly panned by the critics, nonetheless, the film found an audience.

"Alex Wheatley" and his two kids enjoy time with "Katie" in 'Safe Haven'
“Alex Wheatley” and his two kids enjoy time with “Katie” in ‘Safe Haven’

Now, on Valentine’s Day 2013, Safe Haven will open.  Starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, it is the story of a woman on the run, the small town she runs to and the man living there who comes into her life at just the right moment.  Duhamel, probably best known for his role on the TV drama Las Vegas, plays “Alex Wheatley”, owner of a local store in Southport.  He is a widower who was left alone to raise two young children after his wife died from cancer.  Hough, an alum of Dancing with the Stars, and recently in Rock of Ages is “Katie” a woman who is running from something and winds up in Southport and decides to stay.  There is something that is definitely different in the novel that is the basis  of this film that is not present in the others from Sparks.  It adds a compelling element that translated well to the screen.

It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day date movie.

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