Release date: 9th April 2015

Director: George Tillman Jr

Cast: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Lolita Davidovich, Alan Alda, Melissa Benoist, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston

Classification: M (Mature Themes and Sex Scenes)

Review by Peter Gray

Like an animated Disney feature or a Marvel Studios outing, films adapted from the schmaltzy pen of author Nicholas Sparks are critic-proof productions, and the latest offering, ‘The Longest Ride’, continues the tried and true formula that has seen his past efforts ‘The Notebook’, ‘Dear John’ and ‘Safe Haven’ (to name a few) graduate to financial fruition. Yet to find a leading duo equivalent to the seemingly unmatchable Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams (and they’ve tried their best with Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Zac Efron, Miley Cyrus and Josh Duhamel all racking up past Sparks-induced screentime), ‘The Longest Ride’ puts its money on relative unknown Britt Robertson and the ridiculously handsome Scott Eastwood (yes, son of Clint) to challenge. The outcome? Well…Eastwood really is ridiculously handsome.

Skipping no beats in terms of its clichéd plotline, ‘The Longest Ride’ presents us with art major student Sophia (Robertson) and professional bull-rider Luke (Eastwood), two perfectly pretty people who wouldn’t socialize under usual circumstances, but with Sophia’s rowdy roommate Marcia (Melissa Benoist) insisting on introducing her to the world of “hot cowboys”, a meet cute is arranged when Luke’s stereotypical cowboy hat winds up in her possession. Surprisingly we wait longer than one would expect for these two to make things official – of course when they do we are treated to the pleasing sights of Robertson and Eastwood in flagrante – as Sparks deemed it necessary to focus on not just their blossoming romance, but that of Ira and Ruth Levinson (Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin), a young Jewish couple who met in the 1940’s. Naturally, these two sets of relationships share similarities as the film toes back and forth between the modern day ranch romance of Sophia and Luke, and the past love story of Ira and Ruth.

I’m sure this was some sort of deliberate attempt to recreate the magic ‘The Notebook’ struck with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams acting out the romantic history of their older counterparts, James Garner and Gena Rowlands, but it falls flat on all accounts with these tired relationships dragging out the running time to an unbearable 135 minutes, and the scenes with Huston and Chaplin don’t blend well with the rest of the film; their sequences feeling like another feature entirely. A tired and cranky looking Alan Alda (you can practically feel his distaste for Robertson’s Sophia) acts as the segue for these stories as his aged Ira is saved from a car accident by Luke and Sophia, and, as is typical with these films, he forms a bond with them, happily allowing the rather nosy Sophia to read his old love letters to Ruth.

I shouldn’t be surprised that ‘The Longest Ride’ (never has a title been more apt) adds next-to-nothing to the genre, but even with all its predictable beats, it offers no charm, and Robertson’s baby face-like features are an odd match for the masculine swagger of Eastwood. This film does them no favours, I doubt Eastwood needs any help in appearing more irresistible though, but then again the audience in attendance lapped up every moment, laughing and swooning just as the filmmakers intended, so maybe I’m expecting too much from my Hollywood romances nowadays?

My rating: 1.5/5

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