The 400-Word-Review: The Longest Ride
By Sean Collier
April 13, 2015
As the already-limited power of romance novelist turned movie factory Nicholas Sparks begins to wane, the threadbare constructions of his sappy hokum are becoming plainer and plainer. Take it from the consensus: While no adaptation of a Sparks novel has been critically embraced (his best Rotten Tomatoes score is 52%, for The Notebook), the last few films in the unofficial series have reached truly reviled territory (again on the Tomatometer, 20% for 2012’s The Lucky One, 12% for 2013’s Safe Haven and 7% for last year’s The Best of Me).
None of those duds screamed “I’m out of ideas” as loudly as The Longest Ride, however. Because this latest bonbon of a motion picture is so aware that it doesn’t have the story to support a narrative that it tries to reach feature length via taxidermy, sewing an entirely unrelated love story atop the first one.
Indeed: the depressing well of Nicholas Sparks is running dry.
In The Longest Ride, based on Sparks’ 17th romance novel, art history major Sophia (Britt Robertson) meets professional bull rider Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint) at a rodeo. They’re smitten, but some minor obstacles present themselves: Sophia is maybe moving to New York, I guess, and Luke has had some alarmingly underplayed injury trouble. Will they overcome?
I mean, probably.
So they help rescue nonagenarian Ira (Alan Alda) from a car wreck, finding a box of his old love letters in the process. About half of the movie’s running time diverts to Ira’s tale of meeting his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin), an Austrian war refugee, and their struggles to conceive a child after Ira is injured in battle.
At some brief, hopeful moment, Sparks probably conceived the stories as parallel; both Ira and Ruth and Sophia and Luke do temporarily split. But make no mistake; this is not a case of interweaving stories dancing before a gauzy lens, it is two inadequate tales made even more tedious by juxtaposition.
Alda is incapable of giving a bad performance, and Robertson and Eastwood have their charms. It must be noted as well that the work of the fine cinematographer David Tattersall is admirable, particularly at the rodeo. But The Longest Ride is predictable even at its best moments and tedious all the time. If this one wrings tears out of you, you’re probably just as likely to cry at a particularly impactful detergent ad.
My Rating: 3/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark