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The Longest Ride, the latest film adaptation of the romantic novels of Nicholas Sparks, centers on the relationship between former champion bull rider Luke (Scott Eastwood) looking for a comeback and young college student Sophia (Britt Robertson). Their conflicting lives and ideals are put into view by the memories of an older man, Ira (Alan Alda), recalling his own romantic past.
The film is the 10th adaptation of Sparks’ novels and is directed by Barbershop franchise producer George Tillman Jr. Also starring are Jack Huston and Game of Thrones alum Oona Chaplin.
The Longest Ride is expected to open somewhere in the $12 million range, while Furious 7 likely will retain the top spot at the box office this weekend.
Read what top critics are saying about The Longest Ride:
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy says when it comes to Sparks, “you’re either up for the ride or you’re not,” and “if you’re not, well, The Longest Ride will feel like one of the longest 128 minutes of your life. Old-fashioned in all the most tedious ways, this by-the-numbers romance between oddly mismatched lovers plods along in a way that will nonetheless provide the cinematic equivalent of an agreeable airplane novel read for the already converted.”
“What’s most strange here is how Sparks, in a calculated attempt to link people from very different worlds, offers up social backgrounds for them that simply don’t mix at all — modern Southern college sorority life, the circumstances for World War II Jewish refugees, enclaves of modern art a half-century ago and today and, per the title, the good-old-boy milieu of professional bull riding.” Director Tillman “indulges, nay, embraces the sanitized banality of Sparks’ world with a straight face. Just as the basic plot points are hard to swallow, even the most rudimentary aspects of the characters’ interactions feel forced, artificial and unspontaneous.”
Chaplin is the “sole younger actor to pop here; playing the only one of the youthful characters with any boldness or inclination to speak her own mind,” while Alda “makes the canned sentimentality of his 91-year-old character go down quite easily as he comments to Sophia about the vicissitudes of his life.” The film’s “settings and compositions are picture-postcard, the score syrupy, the bull-riding coverage not entirely convincing, the sentiments cliched and reassuring. But, boy oh boy, the ending! In Sparks’ world, when happiness rains, it pours.”
The New York Times‘ A. O. Scott writes, “The obstacles along the way seem trivial enough to make the story of [Eastwood and Robertson’s] relationship fairly tedious, despite the charm and sincerity of the actors.” The flashbacks to “mid-20th century avant garde is as unexpected a presence in this kind of movie as the Hebrew prayer book,” but “a remarkably pedigreed cast” gives the film “the dollop of specialness that is a brand requirement. The Last Song had Miley Cyrus and baby sea turtles. Nights in Rodanthe had the word Rodanthe. Dear John and The Lucky One had the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Notebook had Gena Rowlands and the wettest kiss ever. A Walk to Remember had … honestly I forget. Someone put together a listicle! That’s the kind of criticism this brand was made for.”
Los Angeles Times‘ Betsy Sharkey notes that despite “shots of the eye candy that is Eastwood, Sparks’ latest romance to make its tissue-sodden way to the big screen is a wash. A long one.” The film’s “two-plus hours is mostly marked by an emptiness born of scene after scene designed to blatantly manipulate emotions rather than trigger them.” Adapting the novel, screenwriter Craig Bolotin “makes only minor adjustments. Adding intellect, insight or real romance are not among the changes.” Alda is “given little to do except spend time in a hospital bed and provide a reason for flashbacks to Ira’s younger days,” while “Chaplin and Huston do a slightly better job of steaming up the screen than Eastwood and Robertson.” The story is “filled with many moments when it seems all might fall apart. But true to the Sparks’ literary formula … it all works out in the end — which would only qualify as a spoiler if it didn’t.”
Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips says the film “can be described the way Eastwood … is described in the opening seconds of the movie: ‘easy on the eyes and a magician on a bull.’ The movie is easy on the eyes. And Sparks is a magician with the bull.” Tillman “appears to have gone into this assignment having studied the complete works of Lasse Hallstrom, who directed Dear John and Safe Haven, two previous Sparks adaptations, for their honey-glow sunsets and utter fraudulence. But that’s not even a criticism with this material; it’s simply a fact.” Though he does have a “light but effective touch with his actors.” The film “glides along and delivers its reheated comfort food by the ton.”
Claudia Puig of USA Today calls the film a “sentimental slog” that has the “distinction of being the longest movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Otherwise, it’s distinction-free.” The “main reason to see this cliched movie is handsome star Scott Eastwood,” whose “toned pecs and abs are given nearly as much focus, since there’s a target audience: women who like to swoon at the movies.” The film “covers a predictable checklist of Sparks-isms. Gorgeous heartthrob falls for smart, cute girl. Older, often sick or feeble, characters impart sage advice. Beautiful landscapes loom large. Gauzy curtains sway as the lovebirds get tastefully amorous.” Overall, it “is sentimental, forced and silly, but it’s sure to hit the bull’s-eye with its intended audience.”
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