Lucky One, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: -1

Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson, Riley Thomas Stewart. Written by Will Fetters (Remember Me adapted from the Nicholas Sparks novel The Lucky One). Directed by Scott Hicks (Shine, No Reservations).

FILM SYNOPSIS: U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Efron) returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive—a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Learning her name is Beth (Schilling) and where she lives, he shows up at her door to thank her. But Logan suddenly finds himself unable to tell her about the picture. At a loss for words as to why he is there, he notices a “Help-Wanted” sign and takes a job at Beth’s family-run dog kennel. Despite her initial mistrust, she is moved by Logan’s kindness towards her young son, and soon a romance develops between the Marine and the divorced woman.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I saw this one on a press junket, and was reminded during the interviews that the collaborative art form of moviemaking is usually composed of a group doing its best to make a good movie. Zac Efron, for example, went on a brutal physical regime to beef up in order to look more like a Marine. (Efron’s costars and director sing his praises for the young actor’s commitment. Indeed, he is well-liked in Hollywood because of his dedication to the craft.)

Occasionally we critics forget the strenuous efforts undertaken by casts and crews in order to put films together that they hope will engage and entertain. And during and after a production, each film’s family lives with the fear that no matter its efforts to make it a hit, the film could be a miss. It’s simply magic when a film comes together. No one, for example, had a clue during the making of Casablanca that it would become one of the greatest films ever made. All involved did their job and hoped for the best. They got lucky.

The critic’s dilemma, however, is that while our artistic nature sides with those who create, we ultimately work for you, the reader. So, though I hope the following can be read as fair and balanced, the warning must be declared: This ain’t Casablanca.

For years, Nicholas Sparks has written lightweight adaptations of centuries-old love themes. Attempting to balance melodrama with reality in his novels, he incorporates the many sides of the human experience. In nearly all of his stories, there’s love, hate, fear, frustration, and death – almost always a death, am I right?

In The Lucky One, Mr. Sparks assumes we will accept the lead’s inability to tell this woman that he believed her photo was a lucky charm. Later, because the picture was given to her military brother in hope that it might keep him safe, the discovery that Logan has it enrages her. I could see conflicted, yes, but enraged? We are expected to accept this thinly contrived conflict.

While all actors in The Lucky One did a sincere job, their characters are clichéd and, in several cases, one-dimensional. While the movie has its share of sweet moments (none that actually cause your teeth to ache, but enough for us guys to begin to squirm in our seats) and a villainous ex-husband to cause friction, it’s a love story lacking much poignancy. Or, is it just the sappy handling of the material by fledgling screenwriter Will Fetters that overshadows the message of hope and healing? And towards the ending, director Scott Hicks actually has the female lead running to the male lead in slow motion. (Even women snickered at that.)

Interestingly, the best moments, at least technically, are the sex scenes. Photographed in a slightly golden hue, the visuals erotically depict their passion without becoming overly graphic. I said, overly. Have a problem with the depiction of an unwed couple consummating their physical attraction in a movie? Beware. The Lucky One has such a moment. In fact, it has a couple of them.

Now, about that fair and balanced perspective I promised. The performances carry the film, with Mr. Efron connecting well with the little boy; and there’s an undeniable chemistry between Efron and Ms. Schilling. And, of course, veteran stage and screen performer Blythe Danner (mother of Gwyneth Paltrow) effortlessly handles her role as Beth’s wise and amusing mom. The production contains life-affirming messages, and even though there are two too many musical montages added to further the relationships, the film’s pacing is good, the mood gentle, and the concept appealing.

It’s a pleasant enough film, but it’s not a great film. We filmgoers weren’t that lucky.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Warner Bros.

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: Six or so uses of the s-word and a few minor expletives, mostly the language takes place during the battle sequences.
Profanity: One “G--d---” from the villain.
Violence: Battle scenes taking place in Iraq, kept within the PG-13 frame.
Sexual Intercourse: There are two sexual situations, and though there is no nudity, these scenes become somewhat graphic, again, staying within the PG-13 range, but coming across as provocative and very sensual.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Brief beer drinking.
Other: None
Running Time: 101 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Up

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