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The Longest Ride (2015)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/14/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/10/2015
To date, Nicholas Sparks has written 19 novels and 11 of them have been made into movies. Of those books, I've read zero and of those movies, I've seen four. Obviously, this doesn't qualify me as an expert on Sparks, but I think that I've seen enough to spot some patterns. Clearly, Sparks writes romances, and it's not a stretch to say that they are "romanticized". They often focus on lovers who have been apart for some reason, and the story can look at the couple in the past and in the present. As Sparks' novels have sold over 80 million copies, his fans apparently don't mind that he follows some formulas. But, what if Sparks threw all of his tricks into one story? Would it look like The Longest Ride?
As The Longest Ride opens, we are introduced to Sophia (Britt Robertson), a senior at Wake Forest University, who is known for being very studious...amongst her sorority sisters. Upon graduation, she plans to be move to New York City to intern in an art gallery. Her sorority sister convinces Sophia to attend the rodeo. While there, Sophia meets Luke (Scott Eastwood), a professional bull-rider. He gets her phone number and they go on a date. While returning from the date, Luke notices that a car has crashed throw a guard-rail. He and Sophia pull Ira (Alan Alda) from the wreckage and Sophia retrieves a wicker box form the car. Following this, they take Ira to the hospital. Sophia returns to the hospital to check on Ira, and he asks her to read him the love letters in the box, which he had written over the years to his late wife. Meanwhile, Luke is moving up the rankings on the rodeo circuit, despite the fact that he's still recovering from a serious injury. Sophia is still set on following her dreams to New York, but she feels that many other things are holding her back.
While typing that, I couldn't help but feel that someone may read it and be convinced that I made it up in an attempt to parody a Nicholas Sparks story, but I assure you, that's what the movie is about. It really is about a sorority girl who attends a private, highly-ranked college who falls in love with a rodeo rider (who is apparently older than her), who then reads letter to an elderly man. And this 139-minute movie attempts to not only follow the story of Sophia and Luke, but it also goes into very long flashbacks with young Ira (played by Jack Huston) and his wife, Ruth (Oona Chaplin). It's almost as if Sparks' editor called him and said, "I got those two books you sent me. You know the one about the sorority girl and the cowboy and the one about the couple in the 1940s. I didn't like either one of them, so let's mash 'em together and see what happens."
The problem with The Longest Ride is that this leads to an incredibly unbalanced movie. Going in, I had no idea what this movie was about, and when the Ira flashbacks began, I groaned in disbelief. Little did I know that this would be the more interesting, and more importantly, believable story in the movie. Ira was young man living in North Carolina and Ruth was a immigrant, newly moved from Europe. They began a courtship and he supported her love of art. This story, while cliched, came across as much more realistic then the sorority girl and the bull-rider -- that sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Not only is their courtship difficult to swallow (and confounding, as they become on-again/off-again, which only drags out the movie), it's weighed-down with subplots. While Sophia is trying to decide if she really wants to go to New York, Luke is dealing with his injuries and how they affect his future in rodeo, while he also worries about his mother, Kate (Lolita Davidovich), who may lose her ranch. Things are even further complicated by the fact that there is no chemistry whatsoever between Robertson and Eastwood.
While watching The Longest Ride, my wife stated that she must not have the gene which makes women swoon over movies like this. While I can't comment on that, I'm not going to judge anyone's desire to fall in love with a rugged cowboy...but I don't get it either. Clearly, the fans of Sparks' work don't mind that his stories has a decided air of fantasy to them. They should mind that The Longest Ride bears a strong resemblance to The Notebook, as it deals with a tale told in flashback where the woman is a painter. That aside, The Longest Ride simply doesn't work as a movie. The Sophia-Luke scenes begin to wear on the viewer and we long for the Ira-Ruth story. The finale is comically bad and nearly pushes the movie into the realm of science-fiction. In the end, there are times when The Longest Ride feels like the longest movie.
The Longest Ride does its best to show every rodeo corporate sponsor that there is on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The levle of detail is excellent, despite a few soft shots, and the depth works quite well, as the actors are clearly delineated from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. It's odd to see a drama with a 7.1 track. The quality certainly shows through during the rodeo scenes, as we are surrounded by the crowd noise and the angry bulls activate the subwoofer, and the score sounds great, but otherwise, it's a pretty standard track with serviceable stereo effects.
The Longest Ride Blu-ray Disc contains a number of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director George Tillman, Jr. and actress Oona Chaplin. The Disc contains fourteen DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES which run about 19 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Tillman, Jr. and Chaplin. This includes scenes which introduced Ira much earlier in the story. "A Writer's Journey: A Day in the Life of Nicholas Sparks" (5 minutes) has the author involved in an incredibly silly look at his "normal" day. "Beyond the Ride" (4 minutes) is a brief featurette which examines the themes of love and romance in the film, through comments from the cast and Tillman, Jr. "Bringing It to Life" (5 minutes) has a conversation between Sparks and Alda who discuss North Carolina and the origins of the story. "Meet the Real Bull Riders" (6 minutes) shows the bull-riding set which was filmed in the arena where I saw Nine Inch Nails for the first time. "Luke's Bull Riding School" (5 minutes) shows how Eastwood prepared for the role, including footage from his training. The extras are rounded out by a still gallery and a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long