It goes without saying that the ladies in Nicholas Sparks movies are always beautiful, inside and out. But let’s be honest: his films are better known for their men. From Gosling to Efron, Costner to Tatum, a Sparksian romantic hero is the quintessential strong-silent type with a sensitive, often-suffering soul. They don’t just ache for their loves, they use that longing as fuel to restore houses, refurbish boats, or some other manly metaphor.
The Longest Ride doubles down on that notion: fans get not one, but two Sparksian heroes. There’s Scott Eastwood, who plays a rugged bull rider who falls for Britt Robertson’s sophisticated art student. He’s trying to ride the meanest bulls in the world; she’s on her way to work in New York City. And there’s Jack Huston from Boardwalk Empire, who plays a World War II-era man whose love for Oona Chaplin’s European beauty inspires a lifelong passion for the arts. When these two romances collide—after Eastwood’s cowboy rescues Huston’s aged character (played by Alan Alda) from a car wreck—both couples realize that not everyone is so lucky to get a chance at true love.
Directed by George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food), The Longest Ride is a healthy dose of the Southern comfort fans love about Sparks. And with an Eastwood, a Huston, and a Chaplin, it features a cast with old-Hollywood bloodlines. Even Alda is a second-generation actor. Though all five actors share the film equally, Eastwood is bound to draw some extra attention—not only because of his resemblance to his famous father but because he actually looks like he could ride a bull tomorrow.
Read EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below.
Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)
“Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys—unless they look like Scott Eastwood … The Longest Ride is all soft-focus and dreamy and deeply corny, but also kind of delicious.”
Stephen Whitty (Newark Star-Ledger)
“The Longest Ride is a slick, push-all-the-buttons story about a professional bull rider. Which sort of makes sense, as it comes from a slick, push-all-the-buttons professional bull writer. … There’s nothing very exciting about Eastwood’s rodeo competitions, and Robertson’s big dilemma—do I go to New York for a job, or stay here with my boyfriend?—isn’t much of dilemma at all. The movie has nowhere to go and spends more than two hours getting there.”
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“If the movie is to be remembered for anything, it’s for the presence of Scott Eastwood in his first significant starring role. Scott is the son of you-know-who, but I forgot all about that until 20 minutes in, when I noticed the resemblance. He doesn’t have Dad’s crazed quizzical look, but he has the squint and the voice, not to mention the good looks. Scott resembles the big guy enough for that to be interesting, but not so much that it’s distracting.”
Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)
“In a plot thread set in the 1940s, we have Jack Huston—grandson of John Huston, nephew of Angelica Huston—co-starring with Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, great-granddaughter of Eugene O’Neill. They’re both wonderful, though saddled with a shamelessly corny storyline involving Ira’s war injury, their inability to have children, and the smudge-faced poor kid they try to adopt.”
Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle)
“Oona Chaplin, as Ira’s World War II-era inamorata, is magnetic onscreen, and director George Tillman Jr. (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete) milks bull riding’s storied eight seconds for a standout slow-motion sequence late in the film—but they’re only flare guns of interest shot out from a sea of dross, and the brightest spots in a picturesque but tiresomely insensate film.”
Scott Foundas (Variety)
“Huston and Chaplin (even burdened with her silly accent) have terrific chemistry together, every one of their smoldering glances worth a few hundred pages of Sparks’ purple prose. Meanwhile, back in the present, Luke and Sophia steam up several different shades of stained glass in a shower scene that evokes the late softcore maestro Zalman King…”
Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times)
“Chaplin and Huston do a slightly better job of steaming up the screen than Eastwood and Robertson. It’s not so much the actors’ fault as those distracting Eastwood abs. I don’t think Huston ever gets a chance to join in the Calvin Klein-esque underwear shoot that is ready to spring into action any time Luke sheds his shirt.”
Peter Keough (Boston Globe)
“After some courtin’ (‘I’m old school,’ Luke says ominously) the two end up in a lovemaking montage that intercuts bull-riding with their mistily shot grapplings. It might be worth noting that a contestant has to remain on a bull for at least eight seconds in order to score.”
Claudia Puig (USA Today)
“Ira and Ruth’s story comes full circle into the lives of Sophia and Luke in an ending so ridiculously contrived, it’s almost worth the movie’s extended length. Almost. The Longest Ride is sentimental, forced and silly, but it’s sure to hit the bull’s-eye with its intended audience.”
Connie Ogle (Miami Herald)
“For some reason Ira keeps writing her these letters describing the wonder of their life together even while they are presumably living it, which makes no sense. The fault for this clunky set-up ultimately lies with Sparks’ novel, but still, the whole thing rings more false than Safe Haven, and that movie had a ghost.”
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter)
“Leaving his career origins in Soul Food and the Barbershop series (which he produced) very far behind indeed, director George Tillman Jr. indulges, nay, embraces the sanitized banality of Sparks’ world with a straight face. Just as the basic plot points are hard to swallow, even the most rudimentary aspects of the characters’ interactions feel forced, artificial and unspontaneous.”
The Longest Ride
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 32
Rotten Tomatoes: 28 percent
Length: 128 minutes
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Starring Scott Eastwwod, Britt Robertson, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda