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The Longest Ride (2015)

| April 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

Nicholas Sparks is the perennial schlock-meister of romantic goo-goo eyes. He has made a cottage industry of creating a romantically-tinged alternate universe in which the ups and downs of romance are beaten back by reading old love letters and restoring a house. His stories are worry-free fantasies designed for those who run screaming from anything challenging, i.e. those who stick their fingers in their ears and begin humming at the first sign of anything unpleasant. Oh there’s drama, but it’s aimed at first-world problems of absolute simplicity.

Anyone looking for a spark (no pun intended) of real life in these movies – this is the 10th Nicholas Sparks adaptation – need look elsewhere. Sparks’ sudsy-clean world is a vision of lovers who are as beautiful as a magazine cover but as interesting as a five-pound sack of fertilizer. The formula dictates that they be madly in love, not out of personality, but out of necessity to the plot – such as it is.

The Longest Ride has a disturbingly accurate title – it runs 2-and-a-half hours and not only perpetuates Sparks’ turgid formula but doubles up on it. This time we get not one, but two hard-to-sit-through romantic pills. First is the present-day story of a young and beautiful couple headed by Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint) as a perfectly chiseled rodeo bull-rider who is trying to get back in the ring after an accident at the hooves of a Rango, a particularly mean bull who actually gives the most honest performance in the movie.

Luke’s spirit may be in the rodeo ring, but his country heart belongs to Sophia (Britt Robertson) a beautiful art student whose career aspirations reside in a place where bulls aren’t traditionally part of the landscape – she’s on her way to New York City to be part of the art scene there. So this city vs. country puts a strain on their gittin’ together.

The second story whips back to World War II in which we meet young American Ira Levinson (Jack Huston, grandson of John) who falls in love with a beautiful Austrian refugee named Ruth (Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie) who gives him a lifelong passion for art. The two stories collide (or rather crash into each other story-wise) when Luke rescues an old man (Alan Alda, son of Robert) from a car accident – who turns out to be the elderly Ira, you see. Old Ira is a widower who just happens to have Ruth’s letters with him in the crash. Sophia feels a connection to the old man and much of the movie is taken up as she reads Ruth’s old letters at Ira’s bedside. The reasons why he’s carrying the letters, along with an explanation of how and why he got together with Ruth are, we come to understand, questions we just don’t ask from Nicholas Sparks – love conquers all, now sit down and shut up!

Even as Nicholas Sparks adaptations go, this one is pretty bad. Every motivation is plugged in as cuddly convenience at the hands of plot motivations built on coincidences so bizarre that you’d swear Clarence the Angel were right there pulling the puppet strings. Much of the motivation behind the romance is missing other than the fact that beautiful people instantly fall in love and that’s it. The stories aren’t even written well; they are written as concepts but never tied together with any kind of continuity.

If you can think beyond Scott Eastwood taking his shirt off – which is obviously placed as a distraction so that the ladies in the audience won’t ask too many question – you’ll find yourself frustrated by asking the obvious, such as: Why did Ira write magnums of letters about events that he and Ruth were present to witness? How does a girl going to college in North Carolina remain clueless about what a cowboy looks like? Why do the battles of World War II look like the trench battles of World War I? Why does Ruth have an Austrian accent that sounds Spanish? Was this trip really necessary?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Drama, Recent, War