By my count, this is the sixth Nicholas Sparks adaptation I’ve reviewed. I’m not totally confident of that number because they all sort of ooze together into one incredibly long, incredibly similar folksy romance. They even all have the same damn poster. I don’t remember much about any of them, besides the one with Miley Cyrus having a raccoon in it and another one having a twist ending involving a ghost. The latest Sparks film, The Longest Ride, does not promise to stand out, besides — maybe — being that one about bull riding, or that one where Clint Eastwood’s son briefly had a film career.
There’s nothing really all that different about The Longest Ride than any of its predecessors. Some hunk and some blonde girl fall in love. There are complications and flashbacks and (usually) everything turns out OK — or, at the very least, they end appropriately in some tragically romantic way. Here, our beefcake romantic interest is Clint’s son Scott Eastwood, with J. Crew model looks and J. Crew mannequin acting ability. He plays Luke, a daring bull rider who suffers a life threatening head injury, something that doesn’t deter him from trying to get back to the top, despite risks to his life. Enter Sophia (Britt Robertson, Delivery Man), a cloistered coed from the other side of the tracks with an interest in the arts and dreams of making it in the big city.
After quickly falling for one another (despite Luke’s possible death wish and Sophia’s divergent career path), their lives cross that of Ira (Alan Alda), an elderly man whom they save — along with a box of old letters — from a car crash. Sophia and Ira soon strike up a relationship, as she begins reading the letters to Ira which detail his melodramatic romance with Ruth (Oona Chaplin) some seven decades ago. Conveniently, Ira and Ruth’s courtship mirrors a lot of what Luke and Sophia are struggling with.
There are some very basic problems with how all of this nonsense is approached. Director George Tillman Jr. (Faster) makes the film look and feel like a TV show. Eastwood and Robertson are dreadfully boring and have zero interest in either having chemistry or appearing like real life human beings. The period stuff that’s set during WWII looks cheap and fake, while the story itself has nothing about it that makes it engaging — a problem considering The Longest Ride’s two-hour-plus running time. I suppose there’s some local interest since the film’s set in North Carolina and a slight chunk of the film relates to a really phony looking version of Black Mountain, but all of that’s hardly a reason to sit through the rest. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity and some war and sports action.