It seems that every time you turn around, there’s another Nicholas Sparks movie playing at the nearest multiplex. Some are good [The Notebook, The Last Song], some are appallingly bad [Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John] and some are just there. The Lucky One is one of the latter.
Logan [Zac Efron], a Marine sergeant who’s done three tours in Iraq, survives an attack when he steps away from a group of his men to pick up something he sees glittering in the sand. It’s a photo of a blonde woman with a lighthouse in the background. On the back is written, ‘Keep safe.’
When he returns to the States, he packs up his gear, gets his dog [a gorgeous German Shepherd called Zeus] and sets out to find the woman in the photo to thank her for saving his life. Somehow, with no real information to go on, he finds her, but when he starts to tell her why he was looking for her, the two are interrupted – and he doesn’t seem to find his words again until after they’ve fallen in love. Which is a problem.
The woman is Beth [Taylor Schilling], a veterinarian who also runs a kennel along with her grandmother, Ellie [Blythe Danner]. She has custody of her young son, Ben [Riley Thomas Stewart], though her ex, Keith [Jay R. Ferguson] has him on weekends.
Keith is a local deputy and a bit of a jerk. When he sees Beth opening up in Logan’s company, he doesn’t take it too well. Can you say obstacle to Beth’s [and Logan’s] happiness? I knew you could. Sadly, though, Keith isn’t nearly nasty enough to create any real feeling of menace or conflict, so The Lucky One never really gets much energy going.
The Lucky One was directed by Scott Hicks [Shine] from a predictable, lackluster script by Will Fetters. It’s moves at a lackadaisical pace but is shot quite beautifully – if pretty much all of a single tone [day, night, sun, rain – all look uniformly pretty and therefore rapidly become boring].
Efron bulked up to be convincing as Logan, but whether it’s Hicks’ direction, or Efron’s choices, he manages to come off as wooden. In fact, he makes Channing Tatum [who was awful in Dear John] look good. Schilling is somewhat better, but doesn’t really have any chemistry with Efron.
What keeps The Lucky One from sinking below the average is the casting of Blythe Danner and Riley Thomas Stewart. Danner finds the humor and humanity in her character – even when the lines aren’t very good, while Stewart’s Ben feels like a real kid and not just a Hollywood doppelganger of one.
While I was neither entertained nor appalled by The Lucky One, I was surprised to hear a number of women in the audience [the film’s prime demographic] say it was awful; that the book was infinitely better; or that it was worth what they paid to see it [which would be nothing…].
Considering that he showed some range in Hairspray and Me and Orson Welles, Efron could have chosen a better project to headline [it’s the first film in which his name appears above the title in the credits]. Maybe next time…
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Photos by Alan Markfield/Courtesy of Warner Bros