The Longest Ride Review

longest rideSo far 2015 has not been a strong year for movies IMO.  Aside from the carry-overs of 2014 the only thing mainstream to really dazzle me is Cinderella and Paddington but there have been a lot of single base hits even without the home runs. 

I looked at the movie options this weekend and it seemed pretty dry.  I could see a poorly reviewed sci-fi film like Chappie or Jupiter Ascending or go see the new Nicholas Sparks movie The Longest Ride.  I went with the latter figuring I could at least make fun of it.  But so help me I actually enjoyed it.  Is it a masterpiece?  No but its a heck of a lot better than anything he has made in a long time. I’d put it right up there with his best The Notebook.  I really would.

It’s actually similar to The Notebook in a lot of ways.  We get the story of an older couple and a young couple and we see their love stories play out.  In this the young couple is Sophia played by Britt Robertson who is a budding art history graduate with a big job in New York coming up and Luke played by Scott Eastwood who hopes to mount a comeback as a professional bull rider.

longest ride4The two have a meet cute but there is also genuine chemistry and the script is passable.  Robertson is especially winning although she feels a little young for the part. She reminds me a little of Rachel McAdams innocent sweetness in The Notebook or Mandy Moore in Night to Remember.   So much of these kind of movies depends on the connection between the lead couple and these two had it and I bought them being together.

longest ride5While they are on their first date they come across an old man who has crashed his car and they are able to save him.  He is played by Alan Alda who is so good in the part.  It is a bit of a plothole that Alda would have to be 95 years old to be the character in the flashbacks but I will give it that.

longest ride alanThe two younguns become friends with Alda and Sophia ends up coming and visiting him and reading him letters he wrote to his wife Ruth over the years.  (Some of the letters don’t quite make sense because they are supposedly written in 1941 but cover events after that…but again I will give it that).  In the flashbacks young Ira and Ruth are played by Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin.  I really liked her but for some reason never liked him and so their chemistry wasn’t as good as the modern couple.

longest ride8Their accents were also extremely corny but I liked how Ruth loved art and that love carried them through some tough times.  They couldn’t have children so she taught and they collected art.  Of course modern Sophia responds to this because she also loves art. (Opposites attract on both stories but I didn’t mind it).

longest ride7I kept waiting for the cancer or terrible event to happen like in every other Nicholas Sparks movie but this actually stays away from that trope (spoiler I guess).  This is just a love story about 2 couples.  Hurray!

longest ride6Luke’s career begins to terrify Sophia because of the chance he will get hurt again.  She meanwhile must decide whether she can sacrifice her job in New York for this guy she just meant.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for a man in a cowboy hat (that would be true…) but I liked it.  It’s a sweet, simple love story with an appealing cast and actually a little bit of a sports movie thrown in there too.  I can see why some people would hate it but like I said compared to other Nicholas Sparks movies this is one of the best. Take that for what you will.

The ending surprised me because I was expecting something more melodramatic but it was sweet and simple.  I teared up but not in the emotionally manipulating ways of many Sparks films.  This was because I was genuinely moved.

A lot of my readers are men for some reason and they will probably hate the movie but if you have a girl I can think of a lot worse you might have to sit through.  But I would suggest to the girls out there get a few of your friends and go together.  There were 3 women who sat behind me and were a little vocal whenever our hunky cowboy took off his shirt, smiled, tipped his hat.  Whenever something sweet happened they sighed.  Normally that might be annoying but I found myself jealous and wishing I could have gone with a group of my girlfriends.  That is totally the way to see this movie.

Now I’m ready to be rebuked and mocked for liking a Nicholas Sparks movie.  Bring it on! At least you know I’m being honest with these reviews.  Why would anyone pretend to like a movie like this? 🙂

As far as content its a pretty strong PG-13.  The sex scenes are very racy so I would check it out on screenit.com for more details before recommending it to your teens.  I probably would say this is adults only although the language and other aspects are fine.

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel so I can’t give it an A but I feel a solid B- is fair.  It is above average but not spectacular.  Still I enjoyed it.

Overall Grade- B-    Content Grade- C

Movie 50: Tangled

Tangled_rapunzel_poster_20

“I am excited that with Tangled a whole new generation will have a Disney princess experience. I hope Disney keeps up the good work and doesn’t rely only on the brilliance of Pixar.”

That was my thoughts back in 2010 when I saw Tangled.  I loved it then, and I love it now.  Even though it won’t be my #1 movie, I have to admit if I made a movie, Tangled is the type of film I would like to make.

As Disney’s first attempt to make a romantic comedy (which I love. see my defense here),  I love everything about it.  It gets the opposites attract, romantic banter, witty dialogue, action, and terrific characters of a Princess Bride but then it adds beautiful music, tons of humor, gorgeous animation, and one of the great Disney villains.  I watched it again tonight but I really didn’t need to because I pull it out every couple of months and give it a watch.  It’s the best!

The Production-

There are a lot of reasons Tangled works so well and a lot of that has to go down to choices they made in production.  Remember how I said every choice they made in Brother Bear drove me crazy?  This is the exact opposite.

For starters, they went traditional fairytale, updated it a little but not as much as Princess and the Frog.  Most of the updates they chose had to do with making the film appeal more to boys instead of traditional Princess movies, and each of these choices makes it a stronger romantic comedy.

For example, Flynn narrates the film which means we get to see a lot of his character, making the romantic comedy tension all the more palpable and satisfying.  I can totally see Flynn being played by romantic comedy greats like a Cary Grant,  Matthew Mcconaughey, Harrison Ford or even Chris Pratt in Guardians- all suave and debonair but really good at heart. Classic and tough to pull off (Mcconaughey failed many times!)Flynn_Rider

We also get ruffians and thugs which appeal to both girls and boys and they are fabulous.

ruffians and thugs

They were so smart in the script also because Rapunzel is so likable.  She does her best to be optimistic and hopeful while basically being a terrified prisoner.  That is very likable person.  In some ways she is like Cinderella in that way.  She is also the ultimate homeschooler- self educated in every way 😉

rapunzel happy

And the villain, Mother Gothel, is one of Disney’s best.  Here Disney had the guts to make a mother evil, and not only that but she uses the very ‘maternal’ nature of mothering to manipulate her daughter.  If you really think about it it’s kind of twisted- brilliantly twisted!!

gothel and rapenuzelI don’t have any proof this but I wonder if they used Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods as inspiration particularly for Mother Gothel.

Into-The-WoodsIn the play Gothel (or the Witch) is even more manipulative and sings a song called Stay with Me to make sure Rapunzel knows how devastated she will be if she is left alone.  Another song is called The Witches Lament and I think you will see similarities between it and Mother Knows Best:

In the Sondheim version she is even kind of bitter with Rapunzel for not appreciating all she did for her.  A true sociopath. You get pieces of that in Mother Gothel with wicked humor I love!

The other thing about Mother Knows Best which makes it amazing is it is just 2 characters on a black background for most of the song and yet I am totally engrossed. That’s impressive!

The music was written by the great Alan Menken so no reason to assume he couldn’t have used Sondheim as an inspiration.  Lyrics are by Glenn Slater who also has a broadway background.

The rest of the songs feel more like The Lion King or Tarzan with a pop vibe but I really love them.

The fact Tangled wasn’t even nominated for Best Animated Film shows what a joke the Oscars really are.  I get why Toy Story 3 would win, and I love How to Train Your Dragon but they only nominated 3 films that year and they didn’t have room for Tangled?  The previous year they nominated 5!

The voice cast is all great with Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, and Jeffrey Tambor.

The Story-

I thought I would try something different for this review.  I found this video- the story of Tangled in 60 seconds and it basically does just that!

Let’s go over a few of the songs.

After our introduction to the story by Flynn, we meet Rapunzel with When Will My Life Begin and it does what Menken and Ashman used to do- like the song Belle in Beauty and the Beast it introduces a ton of narrative within the song, while creating an incredibly appealing lead character.  As an audience we feel connected to Rapunzel quickly.

Next is Mother’s Knows Best which I talked about before.  Flynn arrives and needs to make a deal with Rapunzel to get his satchel of a stolen crown back (classic romantic comedy plot device a bargain, deal, bet, swap gimmick to get story going and force leads to be together).

We also get introduced to Maximus, the rigid Kings guard horse, who is hilarious in his dogged behaviors and determination.

Maximus

Romantic comedies always have engaging side characters and for a story about a thief and a girl in a tower I think they came up with a lot of them and unlike Princess and the Frog they don’t make the movie feel cluttered but are included just enough.

Some of those side characters are the roughians and thugs which brings us our next great song I Had a Dream.  Perfection!

Eventually they break free and end up almost drowning, Flynn finds out about her hair and they finally make it to the lights.

lanterns

This scene with the lanterns is one of the best in all of Disney and in 3D it was breathtaking (I saw it twice in 3D and I have a lazy eye so I usually hate 3D!)

We then get a terrific final act with Mother Gothel continuing to manipulate Rapunzel. This Mother Knows Best Reprise is so chilling and well sung by Donna Murphy.

The ending is so well done and just like a good romantic comedy should we want things to work out so badly for Flynn and Rapunzel but it seems hopeless until the bitter end.  Flynn and Rapunzel understand each other better than any other Disney couple and I have more confidence in their marriage being a success.  It’s one of the great Disney couples.

ending rapunzel
The perfect way to end a romantic comedy with a couple laughing and kissing!

Movie Review/Conclusion-

I really have little criticism for this film.  As I’ve made abundantly clear in this review I love all the choices they made.  I love the romantic comedy storytelling.  I love Flynn and Rapunzel. I love the side characters and I LOVE the villain.

The music is great, animation stunning especially the lanterns, the humor all works.  I guess if I was going to nitpick I’d say the eyes could have been a little smaller.  That’s it.

For me it is a quick top 10 favorite and probably the Disney I could and do rewatch the most frequently.  I love it!

Overall Grade- A+

Oh and Disney is coming out with Into the Woods at Christmas I believe . Yippee!!