'The Longest Ride': Critics aren't bullish on Nicholas Sparks romance

'The Longest Ride' is another formulaic Nicholas Sparks tearjerker, reviews say

"The Longest Ride" looks to be in for a bumpy one, at least if movie critics have anything to say about it.

Starring Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) as a hunky bull rider and Britt Robertson as an aspiring New York City gallerist, this 10th movie adaptation of a tearjerking Nicholas Sparks novel is mostly being shrugged off by reviewers, not unlike a hapless cowboy thrown from a bucking bronco.

The Times' Betsy Sharkey writes: "Even with all 'The Longest Ride's' shots of the eye candy that is Scott Eastwood, Nicholas Sparks' latest romance to make its tissue-sodden way to the big screen is a wash. A long one. … The two-plus hours is mostly marked by an emptiness born of scene after scene designed to blatantly manipulate emotions rather than trigger them."

Sharkey adds that director George Tillman Jr. "gets swamped by the sentiment that characterizes Sparks' work. For fans of the book, screenwriter Craig Bolotin makes only minor adjustments. Adding intellect, insight or real romance are not among the changes."

USA Today's Claudia Puig quips: "'The Longest Ride' has the distinction of being the longest movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Otherwise, it's distinction-free." As in many Sparks films, "the performances never rise above the cloying material, though Eastwood acquits himself best, with an affable charm." For what it's worth, the ending is "so ridiculously contrived, it's almost worth the movie's extended length. Almost."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle finds the film to be phony and unintentionally funny. He writes, "There's no truth in 'The Longest Ride.' There's no truth in the personalities, no truth in the relationships, no truth in the backstory, no truth in the heart-to-heart conversations. … Everything in the movie is suffused by a vision of life that is resoundingly and evidently false, but as this vision is not repulsive, but is intended to reassure, the lies don't produce anger or frustration. No, they bring on the laughs."

Variety's Scott Foundas says the film follows the standard Sparks playbook. "Appealing performances by a trio of second- and third-generation Hollywood kids" — Eastwood is joined by Jack Huston, grandson of John, and Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie — "keep this three-hankie twaddle more bearable than it deserves, but 'Ride' will surely go the longest with audiences for whom this is not their first Sparks rodeo."

In one of the scarcer positive reviews, L.A. Weekly's Amy Nicholson says that Robertson and Eastwood do their duties "well enough that we buy their chemistry."

Nicholson adds, "It's easy to tease a Nicholas Sparks movie. It's harder to admit that he's good at his niche — and has a string of 10 films, nearly all profitable, to prove it, even if every one has been savaged by critics."

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