The Longest Ride  (2015)    61/100

Rating :   61/100                                                                     128 Min        12A

Nicholas Sparks must be the least inventive successful author of his generation, given that his work largely just recycles the same story involving an idyllic, yet troubled by one central threat, romance between a young Venus and Adonis spliced and intermingled with a parallel love story involving two other characters and their, usually tinged with tragedy, tale in flashback. Such is the case in this latest adaptation of his similarly titled 2013 novel, with Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) as the aforementioned mercurial lovebirds and Alan Alda as the old fogey who will engage them with his own tale of romance after the other two save him from a car wreck along with his basket of love letters that he apparently never leaves home without (and which Robertson’s character has no qualms about delving into whilst he’s unconscious).

I have to admit that I did find myself warming to the story as the film went on, despite some ropey acting (some good work too though, especially from Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, as the flashbacked love interest) and the expected cavalcade of cheesy twangy songs, romanticised countryside and vainglorious displays of tensed biceps and tight jeans. Indeed, since this is the second Sparks adaptation, the other being ‘The Best of Me‘, that I’ve begrudgingly admitted to not despising recently I guess I should cut him some slack, and here director George Tillman Jr. (‘Faster’ 2010, ‘Notorious’ 2009) does a pretty good job with the material and at handling the primary source of tension: the male lead’s occupation of rodeo rider coupled with recovery from a near brain haemorrhage due to the sport the year before (partly inspiring the title, though you kind of imagine Sparks tittering away to himself at perspective double, or indeed triple, entendres whilst he was writing), including cinematically vivid shots of the stunt men in action (some of the scenes are with Eastwood on a mechanical bull, though he did sneak off after the shoot wrapped to try one for real), although here it would have been much better to ditch the schmaltzy formula and replace it with more traditional grit and sweat for a favourable contrast.

It won’t disappoint fans of Sparks but it still lacks anything that’s likely to entice many new prospective converts into the fold.

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