Pale 'Ride' is a whole lotta bull
Published 3:23 pm, Wednesday, April 15, 2015
What's most astonishing about this predictably sudsy screen adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' 2013 best-seller is how much Scott Eastwood looks like a younger version of his rugged father Clint -- and how the camera fawns over his chiseled jawline and muscular physique.
Set in North Carolina, Scott plays Luke Collins, a former champion bull rider trying to make a comeback after suffering a serious head injury. At a rodeo, he meets Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), a studious Wake Forest University senior who is excited about her upcoming internship in New York City's glamorous art world.
He's an old-fashioned guy -- one who calls, rather than texts, and brings her a bouquet of flowers on their first date. Despite their differences, they're soon saddling up and riding off into the sunset.
One dark, rainy evening, Luke spies a car that's spun off the road. He takes action and rescues 91-year-old Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), who was driving to Black Mountain College near Asheville. Meanwhile, Sophia saves Ira's treasured box of letters from the passenger seat. Ira's vivid memories -- aka flashbacks -- of his beloved, contemporary art-enthusiast wife Ruth inspire the young couple.
Stressing the theme that love demands compromise and sacrifice, screenwriter Craig Bolotin ("Black Rain") and director George Tillman Jr. ("Faster") intertwine these formulaic narratives, with Jack Huston (grandson of John) playing young Ira and Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie, daughter of Geraldine) as vivacious Ruth, a Jewish immigrant from Austria during the 1940s.
While the rodeo sequences are exciting -- the bucking bull Rango receives his own screen credit -- the artificial juxtaposition of these two disparate romances is preposterous and the conclusion simply flabbergasting.
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FYI: This is Nicholas Sparks' 10th novel to be made into a feature film. Others include "Message in a Bottle," "Nights in Rodanthe," "A Walk to Remember," "Dear John" and "The Notebook."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Longest Ride" is a syrupy 5, oozing unabashed slush and sentimentality.
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