The Longest Ride: Alda shines in middling romance

Thank God for Alan Alda.

For all the talk about the emergence of Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott, if there’s one thing that should be absolutely clear to moviegoers following a screening of “The Longest Ride,” it’s that Alda is a cinematic treasure we all need to be thankful for.

The latest in an increasingly predictable line of films based on Nicholas Sparks novels finds the younger Eastwood as a pro bull rider and the perfect Southern gentleman who falls in love with a young art student played by Britt Robertson of the upcoming “Tomorrowland.”

There’s nothing really memorable or overly heartwarming about their romance beyond the superficial. In fact, their love affair isn’t even the one that viewers will cling to by the time the film ends.

Clint isn’t coming to rescue his son from himself or from viewers, but Alda saves the day as the charming and charismatic patron saint of the film, an elderly gentleman saved by the young couple who both take a respectable Southern shine to him.

Through flashback sequences, Alda shares the story of his own great love affair portrayed by “Boardwalk Empire” star Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of the famed silent film star Charlie Chaplin.

The depth of character development taken by all three elder actors completely outshines Eastwood and Robertson, though that may very well be due in part to better material.

Viewers become much more invested in the film during the Huston-Chaplin love affair as described by Alda, ironically causing moviegoers to inherently care more about the secondary romance between Eastwood and Robertson in spite of its relative campiness.

Alda’s performance in the film — by far the best work by any supporting actor so far this year — is reason enough to go and see an otherwise pedestrian romance film.

There’s likely a better date night movie on the way with the release of the Blake Lively-led “The Age of Adaline” on April 24, but for couples who just can’t wait to get to the movies, you can’t go wrong with “The Longest Ride.”

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