Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

Sparks Adaptation The Longest Ride Works for Both 'Rom' and 'Com'

Sparks Adaptation <i>The Longest Ride</i> Works for Both 'Rom' and 'Com'

DVD Release Date: July 14, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: April 10, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Run Time: 139 minutes
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Cast: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin

It’s Spring, and when a young movie-goer's fancy turns to love, best-selling author Nicholas Sparks is ready to take her there. Based on the Sparks novel of the same name, The Longest Ride is a sweetheart of a movie that may not break new ground but is almost certain to please.

Sophia (Britt Robertson, Dan in Real Life and the upcoming Tomorrowland) is an art lover on the cusp of a brilliant career at a Manhattan gallery, just as soon as she finishes her last semester of college. Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint) is a professional bull rider, a cowboy who has already had a spectacular rise and fall and is desperately trying to make a comeback. The two have little in common and almost no time to be together. Clearly, they're meant for each other.

They do make an adorable couple. Sophia is cute and intense with a sweet, lively face that crinkles into any number of interested expressions. Luke is charming and a little old-fashioned with plenty of the smoldering appeal that made Eastwood's movie star dad a favorite for an earlier generation of female fans. Their budding romance is delightfully awkward, but it’s all for naught as these two are clearly going their separate ways (or are they?). As if the glorious North Carolina scenery, romantic candlelight, etc. were not enough, their first date takes an intense turn when they happen upon a car accident and rescue the elderly driver and his box of mementos. Ira (Alan Alda, Tower Heist) is banged up but not so much that he loses his gift of good-natured, crotchety banter. When Sophia befriends Ira and gradually comes to know his story—mostly through the letters in his box—one tale becomes two as the relationship between young Ira and his beloved Ruth (Oona Chaplin) is woven into that of the modern couple.

While Sophia and Luke's romance is sweet and all, when they were onscreen I found myself waiting for the next chapters of Ira and Ruth's far more interesting love story. Set against the backdrop of WWII, and covering a span of many years, there's a depth to the older couple's love that is (naturally) missing in the newly-connected modern-day couple. The two couples have so many parallels it strains belief a bit, but this is a starry-eyed fantasy, after all. Sometimes reality is overrated.

In addition to all the sweetness, there are enough funny moments to justify both the 'rom' and 'com' labels. Both male and female viewers in my audience burst into laughter on several occasions, several confessed to a tear or two, and a good time was had by all… except maybe Rango, the bull who is Luke’s nemesis. All that bull riding—and there is a fair amount—is shown from a variety of interesting angles, including the rider's. The film features a number of real-life cowboys from the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) circuit, adding a nice touch of gritty reality.

The soundtrack is more than just background music; it provides commentary on the action. Like the dulcet tones of the Pistol Annies singing "I feel a sin comin' on; please Jesus don't hold me back" or Ryan Adams crooning about “Desire.” As those titles suggest, Sophia and Luke's is a modern relationship, which means they don't bother with anything so quaint as waiting for marriage; they consummate their love in several scenes that are steamy in more ways than one. To director George Tillman Jr.'s credit, those scenes are, at least, artfully filmed and have a dreamy romantic feel. This is a true love story, not just a relationship movie.

The Longest Ride is the is the tenth Sparks book to be made into a movie, and at almost 2 hours, 20 minutes is the longest of them, but the time passes quickly. While the big "surprise" ending may not be much of a surprise to those familiar with the inspirational stories that populate Facebook (it's a variation on a tale that made the rounds a year or so ago), it's satisfying nonetheless. All ends as it should, making this an enjoyable girls'-night-out movie that, thanks to all the bull riding action, guys may actually enjoy, too.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking at bars, wine with dinner, occasional drunkenness.
  • Language/Profanity: A couple of muttered “Shhhhhht” one d-word and one exclamation of “Jesus.”
  • Sex/Nudity: Sophia's friend pulls down Sophia’s t-shirt to expose more cleavage for her date with Luke and tells her "You're the only girl I know who wouldn't have a fling with a cowboy." Teasing comment about not wearing underwear (more funny than sultry). Several kisses, some artistically-filmed sex scenes that show relatively discreet side and back nudity. We see a good amount of Luke's muscular backside and hands caressing. Some slow stripping scenes and semi-skinny dipping (swimming in underwear).
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: Bull riding is an intense, competitive, dangerous sport and we see it from a variety of angles. Some war scenes show troops under fire. Men are injured in a variety of ways. A victim is pulled from a wrecked car.

Publication date: April 10, 2015