The Longest Ride

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This was perhaps one of the best experiences I could have at a movie screening. Let me explain. I was 45 minutes into a bad Nicholas Sparks flick, and there were technical difficulties. After 15 minutes of waiting for them to fix it, I left. It was a great excuse to escape.

This was the 10th movie adaptation of a Sparks’ novel. I’ve only liked 2 of the 10 movies, and this was on pace for being number 11.

It stars Scott Eastwood, looking like a better version of his father Clint, and playing a part that seemed like something Clint would’ve taken – an injured rodeo bull rider. The difference is, Clint would’ve drank too much, been rude to his love interest (Sandra Locke?), and palled around with a goofy friend (rest in peace Geoffrey Lewis), and perhaps had a pet orangutan.

Scott Eastwood plays Luke Collins. He suffered a head injury that, if injured again, could result in death. He really needs to continue on, so he can help pay for his mothers treatments.

His meeting with Britt Robertson (of the TV show Life Unexpected), is ridiculous. His hat goes into the crowd, she retrieves it. And just like Mean Joe Green, who gave his jersey to that boy…he tells her “Keep it.”

Oh, the scowls from the women in the crowd. And all those women in the crowd that wanted Luke (and/or his hat), made me wonder about the next scene. When her and the sorority sisters go out drinking, she sees him in the parking lot. He offers to buy her a drink. She accepts. Well…I’m wondering why he’s by himself. He’s a rodeo star. He’s good looking. We were shown women swooning over him. So…he just finishes the rodeo and goes to bars and stands in parking lots contemplating life? Oh come on!

When Luke shows up at her dorm room with flowers, we’re supposed to chuckle at the fish-out-of-water moment. Him walking onto a college campus with boots, jeans, and cowboy hat (a new one, I suppose); with a bouquet of flowers, like a proper southern gentleman.

When they go on a date, it becomes one of my pet peeves about all Sparks’ films. The courtships are never that interesting. They involve great looking people that have nothing to say. Even his most well-received picture – The Notebook – has rather uninteresting dates.

Like that movie, this has many of the similar moments: an embrace during a downpour, men doing farm work without their shirt on, flashbacks of a love story that took place in the old days, and a curmudgeon that might have some words of wisdom (he’s played in this by Alan Alda). I would’ve enjoyed this so much more of Radar was reading him those letters while he was in that hospital bed (side note: He plays a character in his ‘90s. Why was he driving?)

From things I read about the plot line, I found out it also tackles the Holocaust, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. It’s enough to make you cry just thinking about it all.

Having two different love stories in a movie that worked well in The English Patient, but they seem to keep going back to this.

It’s amazing to think that a movie like Furious 7 could get the positive reviews it got, but this is getting thrashed by the critics. Both of those films deserved to be panned.

The target audience will eat this up, though (I’m talking to you, teen girls).

The cinematography works, as many of his films are shot beautifully.

1 star out of 5.

  • ADDENDUM

There’s a local critic I highly respect, who gave this movie “three stars.” Since he’s one of the stingier critics when it comes to dishing out good reviews, I was shocked. I was more shocked when he told me I had a “big set of b**ls to review a movie I only watched 45 minutes of.”

I won’t name this critic (but his name rhymes with the words “fought” and “barks”). He does bark when he disagrees with you, but I’ve found he usually makes great points. So with that, and his 3 star recommendation, I headed back in to see what I missed.

Here are my thoughts:

Does Nicholas Sparks just recycle the same three stories for every movie? This had a few things straight out of his last movie “Best of Me” and out of his most popular movie, “The Notebook.” How are people not outraged about that?

An example of why I assumed the rest of the movie would be bad, can be told in one scene. Britt is at his ranch house (spoiler alert: they just slept together). She finds the barrel he has tied up, that he either practices on, or that he learned to bull ride on. She gets on it. He starts moving the rope around it and she has trouble keeping her balance. Nothing in this scene was remotely romantic, cute, or humorous. That’s bad screenwriting and/or directing.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Debra Winger’s look, but she was sexy doing a scene in Urban Cowboy (back in 1980). She’s trying to get John Travolta jealous, and Scott Glenn is running the mechanical bull machine slowly, while she gyrates on it seductively. It was a brilliant scene.

Another unromantic scene is that clichéd pool game. That’s the scene where somebody tries to act sexy to distract the person shooting. It was idiotic.

For movies to be romantic, there can’t just be a number of scenes beautifully shot, with clunky dialogue. Sometimes couples rib each other. For example, there’s a scene where he’s talking about how your goal is to stay on the bull for 8 seconds. In one scene where he explains how you have to last “8 seconds” it would’ve been cute for her to say “Would’ve been nice if you could’ve last night!”

Filmmakers can’t be concerned if it sounds rude, they have to be realistic. It’s why we liked the relationship in When Harry Met Sally. There wasn’t just great chemistry, but they had a great friendship, and they could make fun of each other, too.

The Longest Ride had a number of scenes that just didn’t work.

Every Sparks’ movie seems to have one or two scenes that feel like music videos. A song plays loudly, while we see the couple being romantic with each other. These were awfully corny. They looked like videos that could play on CMT.

Of the entire hour that I missed, only two scenes worked. One is when a teacher is trying to teach manners to a poor boy in her class who is eating dinner with her. It was beautifully done and rather touching.

In another scene near the end, Alan Alda opens a package that’s sent to him. I won’t spoil what it is, but I had tears gushing out of my eyes. And everything about that scene is perfect, including the actual gift and how it looked.

Of course, that leads to the scene in the end, which is the most ridiculous thing in the world. I swear, even Sparks’ movies that kind of work for me (last years “Best of Me”) ruin things in their conclusion.

So upon further review, my 1 star out of 5 stands!

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