The Longest Ride is just another typical Nicholas Sparks adaptation and frankly, I can at least say it’s better than The Best of Me though doesn’t hold a candle to The Notebook, and not many of Sparks’ book-to-films have. Still, the two leads weren’t terrible and it’s nice seeing Alan Alda with a bit more material than usual.
The Longest Ride
Genre(s): Drama, Romance
Fox | PG13 – 128 min. – $39.99 | July 14, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Outside of The Notebook, I really don’t care very much for the Nicholas Sparks’ novel-to-film adaptations, each one basically the same but adding just enough twist to avoid outrage from those buying tickets. That said, these movies tend to tap into the hopeless romantic and at least The Longest Ride avoids the pratfalls and stupidity of The Best of Me where, at least the tearjerker version, is utterly laughable in its sheer coincidence. This isn’t to say Ride is every good, and it tends to drag, but at least I didn’t leave with disgust.
The Longest Ride opens with a prologue. Professional bull rider Luke Collins (SCOTT EASTWOOD) is one of the better riders out there but when he rides a nasty bull named Rango, he’s met his match, nearly killing him and landing in the hospital for a long recovery.
Fast forward a year, we meet Sophia Danko (BRITT ROBERTSON), a young college student more interested in studying rather than socializing, despite on course to getting her degree and already lining up a coveted internship at a posh art gallery in New York. However, her best friend and sorority sister convinces her to join the others and attend a bull riding competition. Yep, you can guess who’s making his comeback: good ole Luke who manages to somewhat conquer his fears and rides the bull for the full 8 seconds. Afterward, when running away from said charging bull, he locks eyes with Sophia and of course there’s an instant connection because… Sparkles!
Later that night, at a local bar, the pair run into one another and sparks fly with some good old whimsical rom-drama flirtation to the point she gives him her number. After some hesitation on Sophia’s part, being she’s set to go to New York in a month, she agrees to go on a date with Luke and the whimsical strikes again; he sets up a picnic along a lake front. They spend the time chatting, montage style in parts, providing backgrounds on where they’re from and general life things. But the romance is short lived when she reveals she’s leaving for NYC soon.
On their way home, during a rainstorm of course, Luke spots a broken guardrail and upon stopping, sees a car on fire that had crashed into a tree. Luke goes into hero mode and rescues the driver (ALAN ALDA) while Sophia manages to retrieve a box at the driver’s behest. At the hospital, Sophia decides to stay so the pair goes their separate ways. While waiting for the driver’s status, she opens the box discovering hundreds of handwritten letters addressed to a woman named Ruth, written by the driver, Ira. Being curious, she begins reading one of them and what unfolds, in Sparks’ fashion, is a flashback to how a young Ira (JACK HUSTON) and Ruth (OONA CHAPLIN) first met, the former immediately developing a mad crush on Ruth who was new in town. With the help of Sophia, she reads these letters to a recovering Ira while he relays his memories of his own turbulent relationship from his service in World War II and sustaining an injury that robbed him of having children, something Ruth desperately wanted.
Meanwhile, the flame that sparked between Luke and Sophia hasn’t entirely fizzled as they re-start their relationship which soon turns physical and pushes the boundaries of a PG-13 rating (in fact there’s a quick nip-shot of Britt Robertson). It’s a “steamy” sex scene certain to rile up its female core audience; for everyone else, it’s another Sparks’ trope in its set-up. We do get some additional drama with Luke’s obsession with bull riding which risks his life and for Sophia, she still has her dream job in her sights.
The Longest Ride, as Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations go, actually isn’t terrible. Faint praise, perhaps but it did manage to beat my low expectations after the laughable awful The Best of Me and although neither Britt Robertson nor Scott Eastwood have the charisma to carry the film, they’re at least good enough for the material and at least the pair have some chemistry. For his part, Alan Alda does well in his small but pivotal role while the young Ira/Ruth storyline didn’t seem to quite gel with the modern world, though at least Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin) are charming enough I suppose.
The film was helmed by George Tillman Jr., director of a variety of projects from Soul Food back in ’97 to Faster in 2010 and a couple of episodes of the Starz series, “Power.” Tillman does the best he can with the material he’s given. He gives the right tone and with cinematographer David Tattersall (Romeo + Juliet) displays the overly romantic nature of the story with soft glows and just an overly romanticized version seen only in these kind of films.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
Audio Commentary – Director George Tillman, Jr. and Actress Oona Chaplin sit down for a nice if not standard track providing background on how each got involved. Part are screen specific but there’s plenty more anecdotal stories as well.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (19:13; HD) – 14 scenes were either trimmed or cut entirely, though nothing really stood out and easy to see why some were removed including an introduction to Alda’s character which felt out of place.
A Writer’s Journey: A Day in the Life of Nicholas Sparks (4:44; HD) has the author give his process to writing. Don’t snicker.
Beyond the Ride (4:14; HD) is a basic behind-the-scenes featurette with on-location interviews with the cast and crew.
Bringing it to Life (4:33; HD) – Actor Alan Alda interviews Sparks as the two talk about the settings and what makes the locales of Sparks’ stories so special.
Meet the Real Bull Riders (6:08; HD) is a featurette on, well, the real life bull riders and their life style.
Luke’s Bull Riding School (4:59; HD) – Actor Scott Eastwood learns how to bull ride.
Gallery is filled with on-location and BTS stills.
Theatrical Trailer (2:26; HD)
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment distributes The Longest Ride onto Blu-ray presented with a pleasing 1080p high-definition transfer and shown in the film’s original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer is sharp showcasing good detail levels throughout and while colors aren’t especially bright, they’re still nicely balanced. There didn’t appear to be any major flaws like aliasing or artifacting making for a visually satisfying transfer.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The movie has been given a strong and robust 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Some might consider it to be overkill considering the genre and where 98% of the film is strictly dialogue or the soundtrack filled with choice romantic songs, it does have good depth for certain scenes like the bull riding sequences.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, The Longest Ride is just another typical Nicholas Sparks adaptation and frankly, I can at least say it’s better than The Best of Me though doesn’t hold a candle to The Notebook, and not many of Sparks’ book-to-films have. Still, the two leads weren’t terrible and it’s nice seeing Alan Alda with a bit more material than usual. The Blu-ray released by Fox offers up great video/audio transfers while the bonus material decent enough.
Brian Oliver aka The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.