[Screen It]


(2015) (Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood) (PG-13)

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Romantic Drama: The lives of a young couple just falling in love intertwine with an elderly man and his recollections of his one great love, who he met just before World War II.
Sophia (BRITT ROBERTSON) is an accomplished Art major at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. To blow off some mid-semester steam, her fun-loving sorority sister, Marcia (MELISSA BENOIST), convinces her to come to a bull riding competition with her. There, she meets a handsome rider, Luke Collins (SCOTT EASTWOOD), and is instantly smitten.

The relationship has complications right from the get-go, however. Sophia is about to graduate college in two months and has an amazing internship lined up at a major gallery in New York City. Luke, meanwhile, was thrown from a bull a year earlier and wound up in a coma. He rides against the advice of doctors for money to keep his family farm going for his widowed mother, Kate (LOLITA DAVIDOVICH). Even though they are total opposites, Sophia and Luke are drawn to each other because of their differences.

One dark and stormy night, the two are on their way home from a date when they spot a car that has run off the road and crashed. They save the life of an elderly man named Ira (ALAN ALDA in old age, JACK HUSTON in period flashback) along with a box of old photos and love letters he wrote to his now-deceased wife, Ruth (OONA CHAPLIN in flashback) over the decades. Sophia becomes close with Ira by reading him the letters and sharing his memories. In doing so, she starts to see her relationship with Luke in a whole new light.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Apologies, dear readers. I wrote the content portion of this review a bit faster than usual, and I left out one very important citation in the Sex/Nudity category. No, I got all of the scenes of intimacy between the two lead characters, professional bull rider Luke and pretty Arts major Sophia. I chronicled all of the love scenes involving the film's parallel couple, World War II-era lovers Ira and Ruth. So, what did I leave out? The film's absolute best pairing ... the sweet, sweet love the camera makes to Scott Eastwood, the actor tapped to play the hunky Luke. What the humans do in this movie is PG-13. But the heat that director George Tillman Jr.'s Panavision and the son of Clint generate? Pure NC-17, folks.

"The Longest Ride" is the latest big-screen adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks' novel, and it's one of the better ones. I write that mainly because I've seen all 10 of the other ones adapted from his books, and I've pretty much despised seven of them. But this one has several things going for it that make up for its deficiencies. The first is Alan Alda, beautifully playing Ira as an elderly man looking back on the love and struggles he and his wife shared over the decades. While Alda's most famous role is of a Korean War-era surgeon on "M*A*S*H," he doesn't seem quite old enough to play a WWII event (Ira, in the film, has to be around 90 meaning you are really looking at someone more like Christopher Plummer or Dick Van Dyke). But at least they didn't take a young actor and then pile on the pancake makeup.

The second thing going for the film is the fact that it is set in North Carolina, as many of Sparks' books and films are, and it is filmed almost entirely on location throughout the state. So, there's a certain authenticity to the locales and the people and the pace of it all. It's really a beautifully photographed movie, and the eyes and senses really needed that with this flick as it runs almost two hours and 20 minutes.

I have to say, though, it doesn't feel excruciating as many of you might imagine. It's more than just the two couples in different time periods staring into each other's eyes, breaking up and making up and dealing with dime-store romance-novel problems. Like "Jerry Maguire," it throws in a sports angle -- the cowboy and bull riding stuff -- to keep the traditional alpha males' interest. The period detail of Ira and Ruth's courtship in the 1940s and into the '50s is also well-done, with one fairly intense battlefield sequence and an intriguing visit to Black Mountain College where so many great artists of the 20th century cut their teeth.

Ah, but you can sense that some of these compliments are back-handed compliments. OK, the problems. Yes, Lord. The film is WAY too long! By a good 15 minutes at least, it's too long. Tillman Jr. and Co. are adapting a long novel. Their movie doesn't have to be paced like one, especially when most moviegoers are pretty sure where it's all going pretty much from the get-go.

And the two young 'uns in the flick, Eastwood and Britt Robertson, sure are pur-tee. But they're also more than a bit dull. They're basically nice, good-hearted people. But when you parallel them with a couple like Ira and Ruth who had to survive the immigrants' voyage to America, the WWII years, and then a running subplot of the couple not being able to conceive a child, it makes the whole "Will Sophia stay in Carolina or go off to big ol' New York City" choice kind of silly and inconsequential. Still, Eastwood and Robertson have way more chemistry than those two drips they got to star in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie earlier in the year.

All in all, though, I am giving a mild recommendation to "The Longest Ride." It is indeed a heck of a long ride. But I left the theater feeling glad that movie camera was able to find such true love with Eastwood and his chiseled features. I hope they have a bright future together. I give this one a 5.5 out of 10 (T. Durgin)

Reviewed April 7, 2015 / Posted April 10, 2015

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