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Article by Teddy Durgin

The Longest Ride is long, but worth the trip

I have a film critic buddy who writes full-content reviews for a Web site he launched back in the '90s. People pay an annual fee to access his highly detailed reviews that chronicle everything that could possibly be objectionable in each new movie. Citations include everything from how many curse words are said throughout to how many violent acts are committed. I'm hoping he didn't leave out one very important citation in his Sex category. No, not the scenes of intimacy between the two lead characters, handsome professional bull-rider Luke and pretty arts major Sophia. I'm sure he chronicled all of those love scenes, along with the ones involving the film's parallel couple: World War II-era sweethearts Ira and Ruth. So, what could he have left out? The film's absolute best coupling... the sweet, sweet love director George Tillman Jr.'s camera makes to Scott Eastwood, the actor tapped to play the hunky Luke. What the humans do in this movie is PG-13. But the heat that the son of Clint and that Panavision generate? Pure NC-17, folks. "The Longest Ride" is the latest big-screen adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, and it's one of the better ones. I write that because I've seen all 10 of the ones adapted from his books, and I've pretty much despised seven of them. But this one has several things going for it that make up for its deficiencies. The first is Alan Alda, beautifully playing Ira as an elderly man looking back on the love and struggles he and his wife shared over the decades. While Alda's most famous role is of a Korean War-era surgeon on "M*A*S*H" and he doesn't seem quite old enough to play a WWII vet (Ira, in the film, has to be around 90, meaning you're really looking at someone like Christopher Plummer or Dick Van Dyke), at least they didn't take a young actor and pile on the old-age pancake makeup. Alda is effortlessly terrific here. The second thing going for "The Longest Ride" is the fact that it is set in North Carolina, as many of Sparks' books and films are, and it is filmed almost entirely on location throughout the state. It's really a beautifully photographed movie and the eyes and senses really needed that with this flick, as it runs almost two hours and 20 minutes. I have to say, though, it doesn't feel as excruciating as many of you might imagine. Like "Jerry Maguire," it throws in a sports angle - the cowboy and bull-riding stuff - to keep the traditional alpha males' interest. The period detail of Ira and Ruth's courtship in the 1940s and into the '50s is also well-done, with one intense battlefield sequence and an intriguing visit to Black Mountain College where so many great artists of the 20th century cut their teeth. Ah, but you can sense that some of these compliments are back-handed ones, can't ya? OK, now for the problems. Yes, Lord. The film is WAY too long! By a good 15 minutes at least. And the two lead young'uns in the flick, Eastwood and Britt Robertson, sure are pur-tee. But they're also a bit dull. When you parallel them with a couple like Ira and Ruth who had to survive the immigrants' voyage to America, the WWII years and then not being able to conceive a child due to his wartime injuries, it makes the whole "Will Sophia stay in Carolina with her bo-hunk, or will she go off to the big ol' New York City" choice kind of inconsequential by comparison. That said, Eastwood and Robertston have way more chemistry than those two drips they got to star in "Fifty Shades of Grey." All in all, I am giving a mild recommendation to "The Longest Ride." It is indeed a heck of a long ride. But I left the theater feeling glad that movie camera was able to find such true love with Eastwood and his chiseled features. I hope they have a bright future together.

"The Longest Ride" is rated PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity and some war and sports action.


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