‘The Longest Ride’
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Stars: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood
2 (out of 5) Globes
Like TV shows, Nicholas Sparks movies have a house style, from which no director or screenwriter may deviate. But within this rubric lies different types. There are the merely grossly, snicker-inducingly manipulative (“The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember”). There are the stark raving mad flights of insanity (“Safe Haven,” last year’s “The Best of Me”). And there are the ones that seem somehow insufficiently cornball, almost subtle, at least relative to films that have Alzheimer’s patients realizing they’re the ones in the epic love story they’re reading — in other words, boring. “The Longest Ride” belongs in the latter group, alongside the Seyfried-Tatum “Dear John.” It’s an almost respectable entry in a genre that could never be respectable — a weepie that smashes together the Holocaust, bull-riding and Alan Alda, and yet still doesn’t achieve cheesy transcendency.
“The Longest Ride” is actually two Sparks movies, like two tossed-off EPs repackaged as a cash-in album. They don’t particularly have much in common. On one side is the present, represented by Britt Robertson’s Sophia, a New York-bound Texas sorority girl and aspiring snooty art gallery stooge who winds up falling for Luke (Scott Eastwood). He’s her opposite: a champion bull-rider who turns up his nose at abstract art and is trying to overcome the trauma of a nasty tumble from a year past. Theirs is an impossible love, so Sparks puts in their way Ira (Alda!), a cranky old-timer recovering from a car accident. He’s given up on life, but a box of love letters reveals his moony past as a WWII veteran (played by Jack Huston) who struggled to keep aflame the burning devotion he had for Ruth, his one true, played by Oona Chaplin. (Eastwood, Huston and Chaplin are all relations, by the way, so that’s three acting dynasties represented — the one genuinely impressive thing about it.)