Entire family: No
2015, 139 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action
20th Century Fox
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: DTS HD-MA 7.1
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD
Bonus features: B
This could have been the shortest review I’ve written. All I had to do was say that The Longest Ride is based on a novel by romance writer Nicholas Sparks, and everyone would get the picture.
Sparks’ audience is and has always been primarily women, and the movie adaptations of his books have fallen into the category of “chick flicks.” That’s not bad, mind you, but the reality-check is that families with adolescent and teenage girls are more likely to fall for this opposites-attract love story than families with boys. That’s just the way it is, and it’s not a slam. Sparks has written 18 romance novels, and 11 of them (including Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, and Dear John) have been turned into films. They’re tremendously popular.
This one falls right in the middle, in terms of worldwide gross, but it’s decent enough entertainment if you’re into romance. The plot is a two-strand weave that involves two couples.
Romantic comedies always have a “meet cute,” and though this isn’t a comedy, that’s how it works. Wake Forest college student Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) is coerced by her sorority sisters into donning cowboy boots and going to a rodeo to check out the “beef.” When Luke—who was seriously injured a year earlier and is still mentally and emotionally scarred as a result—falls off a bull right in front of her and loses his hat, she tosses it to him . . . and he tosses it back. “Keep it,” he says. Eye contact. Later they meet at a party where she’s just about to accept a drink with him but has to cut the evening short because of a friend who drank too much. Yep, there’s drinking and implied sex in this film, though the nudity we see is full-body without full reveal, hence the PG-13 rating.
They start to see each other, but an otherwise ordinary love story is given another layer when they come across an accident. Luke (Scott Eastwood—Clint’s youngest son) pulls the man out, while Sophia goes back at the man’s request to retrieve a box. Sparks has never been bashful about using plot devices, and this one’s a doozy. With a curious Sophia reading the love letters contained in the box, Sparks sets up a double love story—one in the past, with the woman (Oona Chaplin) deceased and the man (Alan Alda) on life support, and the other a young couple just trying to find someone. Sparks and director George Tillman, Jr. (Soul Food, Barbershop) do a nice job of pacing the reveals and relationship development, and a surprise-but-inevitable ending ties that neat bow that romance lovers have come to expect on every package.
In between there are some exciting and wonderfully filmed bull riding sequences, and the stars are plenty likable—which is really important in a formulaic romance, so that we care about their characters and their outcomes. It also looks great in HD, with a bundle of bonus features that should appeal to fans.
Language: Surprisingly little. Maybe a few s-words but that’s about it
Sex: A number of sex scenes, with one brief breast shot and a brief men’s top half of a butt shown. Also plenty of talk about sex.
Violence: Not much. Really just the bull riding sequences and the car crash
Adult situations: Drinking, smoking, partying, etc.
Takeaway: You’re doomed to repeat the past, unless you can learn from someone else’s past. Oh, and love is timeless.