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 ten films, nearly all profitable, to prove it, even if every one has been savaged by critics. Still, a good romance can make us endure an implausible plot as long as the leads have heat.
This time, instead of one couple, there's two -- and Sparks has even stretched out of his blonde/Southern/Christian comfort zone to make the older pair Jewish. His young heartthrob is a blonde, Southern bull rider named Luke Collins and played by Clint Eastwood's son, Scott Eastwood, who pairs his daddy's crinkle-cut eyes with abs you could use as a cattle guard.
Luke is a hero on the Professional Bull Riding circuit, a three-time champion forced to take a year-long break after a monster named Rango gored him in Las Vegas. He and art student Sophia (Britt Robertson) have nothing in common except golden good looks and a fondness for looking at each other and grinning.
Still, Robertson and Eastwood do that well enough that we buy their chemistry. Robertson has a great giggle, and Tillman cranks up the sexual tension as Luke plonks her on a practice barrel strung up in his barn to teach this city girl how to straddle a wild ride. And, of course, Luke could learn a love lesson from widower Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), who literally crashes into his life with a box of love letters he wrote to his wife Ruth. By the time The Longest Ride runs right off a cliff, we're already strapped in with these two. Give in and enjoy the plunge.