“The Longest Ride” – Fox(NEW YORK) — Clocking in at two hour and 19 minutes, The Longest Ride feels like its title.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Based on Nicholas Sparks’ 2,826th novel — OK, his 17th — The Longest Ride uses one love story as an entry point into another love story. Only one of these love stories isn’t like the other, and that’s because only one of them is good.
Britt Robertson plays Sophia, a senior at Wake Forest University. Despite her New Jersey upbringing and pending art degree, she falls for Luke, played by Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood, an up-and-coming bull rider who hopes to become the best in the world. Luke has his demons, though. Sort of. A year before meeting Sophia, he was thrown from a bull and hurt badly enough to keep him out of the saddle for a year. But that’s not really the conflict here. The conflict is, Sophia and Luke meet toward the end of her final semester, after which she’s off to New York for an internship at the art gallery of her dreams.
Enter Alan Alda’s Ira. Returning from their first date, Luke and Sophia rescue him from his burning car on the side of the road. In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, Sophia appears to risk her life to also rescue a box a semi-conscious Ira pleads with her to save. That box contains letters Ira wrote to his late wife, Ruth. When Ira comes to, Sophia demands he tell her the story behind those letters.
Alan Alda is, well, Alan Alda — he’s an excellent and soulful actor who opines about his courtship and marriage. We flash back to 1941, when a young Ira (Jack Huston) meets young Ruth (Oona Chaplin), a nice Jewish girl from Vienna. In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, Ira goes off to fight in World War 2 and while he obviously doesn’t die, Sparks throws in a somewhat tragic twist. I won’t spoil it, but it will test Ira’s relationship with Ruth.
Sparks and company try to juxtapose the trials and tribulations of the two relationships, but it doesn’t really work. The biggest emotional reaction Luke and Sophia’s relationship will likely elicit from the audience is whenever Eastwood takes his shirt off. Director George Tillman Jr. does his best work in the
flashback scenes involving Ruth and Ira, all of which display some sort of underlying cinematic poetry, even when it’s a cliché. And while there’s some creative storytelling during the bullfighting scenes, Luke and Sophia’s tale is predictably predictable.
This could have been the second-best Nicholas Sparks movie (nothing comes close to The Notebook) had it just been Ira and Ruth’s story. Instead, The Longest Ride is weighed down by an unnecessary second story that tries too hard, and bullpen full of clichés.
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.
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