“The Lucky One” has a dynamite premise which, sadly, it only sticks to in the first ten and last five minutes of the movie. In between is a completely different film, one that never moves much beyond the conventional and mediocre.
The film, directed by Scott Hicks and adapted from a novel of the same name by The Notebook‘s Nicholas Sparks, has a pretty fascinating hook: Zac Efron stars as a Marine in Iraq named Logan Thibault- pronounced, yes, “Tebow”- who stumbles upon a photo of a beautiful blond woman.
The few seconds he spent looking at it prevents him from walking into an explosion, and after he survives a couple of other brushes with death he returns home, vowing to track down the woman in the picture, who he considers his good-luck charm.
Logan finds the woman, Beth (Taylor Schilling) in her Louisiana hometown about ten minutes in, but since telling her the story of how he came to find her would result in a pretty short movie, he puts it off. And puts it off again. In fact, Efron keeps not telling the truth for no other reason than that the plot requires him not to.
The inevitable romance between the two of them is what you’d expect from a Sparks-derived movie- sappy but still very sweet. There are some strong moments, too, between Logan and Beth’s young son, played by Riley Thomas Stewart in one of the better recent kid performances. And the way the film parcels out information about who had the picture originally is handled very well.
But where the movie really steps wrongly is in everything involving Beth’s ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson, who plays Stan the art director on Mad Men.) Not only is he abusive and controlling and an alcoholic, but he’s a cop, and also the son of a powerful judge (character actor Adam LeFevre, playing the part as a half-hearted Boss Hogg impression.)
Keith is as generic and cartoonish a villain as can be, just a joke of a character, and “The Lucky One” turns into a melodramatic Lifetime movie every minute he’s on screen.
The part with the ex, in fact, comes across not unlike a white-people version of a common plot in Tyler Perry’s movies: The heroine is really, really saintly, and the abusive male villain is really, really evil, until he gets an out-of-nowhere redemption.
The direction by Hicks is mostly strong, especially some lovely photography of the coastal town, except for an incoherently filmed action scene near the end. Hicks is best known for directing 1996’s “Shine,” as well as 1999’s “Snow Falling on Cedars,” which I consider one of the most underrated films of the ’90s.
Efron isn’t disastrous, but he doesn’t seem right for the role either. Despite newfound muscles and an attempt at a beard, he still looks like a teenager. Hollywood is busy trying to turn Taylor Kitsch into an action star, but he would’ve been perfect here, especially considering all the different times on Friday Night Lights that he found himself playing the brooding lover of a single mom (and yes, there’s precedent for both actors in a movie romance being named “Taylor.”).
Schilling, best known for starring in last year’s not-so-highly regarded “Atlas Shrugged” movie, delivers a good performance and her chemistry with Efron isn’t bad.
If you’re a fan of “The Notebook” or other Sparks adaptations, you’ll probably enjoy “The Lucky One.” Just don’t expect it to become as beloved, or ubiquitous on cable, as “The Notebook.”The Lucky One
Snow Falling on Cedars