[Review] – The Lucky One

2 May

Title: The Lucky One
Year: 2012
Director: Scott Hicks
Writer: Will Fetters, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some sexuality and violence
Runtime: 101 min
IMDb Rating: 5.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 20%
Metacritic: 38

You no doubt know the Nicholas Sparks formula by now. It’s been (and rightfully so) the subject to many parodies, comedic observations and downright criticism. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me give you a refresher: You must have two unequivocally gorgeous caucasians who look great together. Then you throw in an obstacle in there that makes their love impossible. Then you make them fall in love anyways because that’s how it goes. Then you must throw in a hugely exploitative new obstacle out of nowhere (preferably a life-threatening disease) to get tears from your readers. Then you sell the rights to your books to Hollywood and make millions.

That really is how it goes. Now, I’m actually hugely against Nicholas Sparks as a writer, I tried to read one of his novels once and it was just so poorly written that it puts the whole world to shame that this guy is making so much money, add that to the fact that every book is the same and it’s even worse. Add that to the fact that he was stupid enough to actually say that he’s a better writer than Cormac McCarthy, and the guy is just impossible to like as a writer. However, we’re not here (thankfully) to dissect him as a writer; instead what must be dissected is The Lucky One, the latest film adaptation of one his novels.

The Lucky One is the seventh film of Mr. Sparks to be adapted for the big-screen (two future adaptations are already in the works, there’s no stopping the guy). And, I must admit, as much as I absolutely loathe his literature, The Notebook is actually a favorite romantic film of mine; thought we should get that out the way right now. Now, other than The Notebook, however, the film adaptations of his works have been as horrible as one would expect. I’ve reviewed two of them, one of which, Dear John, I gave a C+ because I liked the actors in it and what they did, but the other The Last Song, I stamped with a D+. So yeah, only one decent film in six attempt so far with Nicholas Sparks adaptations; how do you think this seventh effort will go?

If you guessed “pretty horribly” to the above question, you’d be right on the money. The Lucky One is just a collection of schmaltzy moments, many of which are cringe-worthy, that sticks fairly closely to the Nicholas Sparks formula and that will probably appeal only to those who were already fans of it already (which, sadly, is many millions of people).

Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling are the mandatory handsome white people of the story. He plays Logan, a U.S. Marine Sergeant who just returned form a third tour of duty in Iraq, something he believes he survived because of his lucky charm: a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t really know. Ms. Schilling plays Beth, and Logan goes, with his dog Zeus, all the way to Louisiana to find her. Beth’s brother was killed in an ambush during a raid, which is where Logan found her photograph, and she works at a dog kennel with her grandmother, played by Blythe Danner who immediately makes this a better film just by being in it. Logan takes up a job as a handyman there, slowly but surely working his way into Beth’s heart, and being sneered at by Keith, Beth’s police officer ex with whom she has a son.

It’s super stupid because you have this guy finding this photograph. A ridiculous setup that needs you to really believe in fate for him to jump through as many hoops as he needs in order to meet a girl to fall in love with. But fair enough, you can believe that he really was set on finding the girl in the photo. Once he gets there, however, everything about the photograph is forgotten, he must keep the secret of what led him to her from Beth, until of course the movie needs a schmaltzy climax and the topic must be picked up again like it had never been forgotten in the first place.

Of course every day here looks like a sunny day you’d find front and center in a postcard and the film is super full of the values that are adored by the conservative demographic that makes up a nice portion of Mr. Sparks’ target audience, while still providing the sexy scenes with the sexy actors to draw in the other demos. But it kind of works as that romance in Louisiana story; it’s just hurt quite a lot by the fact that the secret that Logan’s keeping just looms over the whole movie even if it’s not mentioned, especially because it’s not that big a deal when you dissect it had he just told it when he arrived there. But it’s when the film tries to go all heavy-handed dramatic with Beth’s ex that it’s just too bad to bear.

Like Dear John, however, this one benefits from having its actors really do their best. Mr. Efron and Ms. Schilling, even if they don’t have the best chemistry ever, do act like the sort of people we’d expect, and do well at that. And to be honest, if you think Zac Efron as this sensitive-guy-who’s-also-kind-of-rugged-since-he’s-a-marine is a nice thought then The Lucky One will be a good movie for you, it’s as simple as that. There were moments in this film, when the actors, the great Ms. Danner especially, had me thinking that I wasn’t going to fail this movie, but then you start focusing on the fact that this one has no originality to it whatsoever, behaving like one of those many Nicholas Sparks parodies itself, and there’s no real ambition to it, that you don’t really have a choice.

Even if you have a date with a girl you want to make think you’re all about romanticism I would really advice you to steer clear from The Lucky One. It’s a film that’s all about really nice sceneries shot in the best daylight possible, and about Zac Efron looking adorable with his little dog while he tracks down a girl with whom he thinks it’s his destiny to be with. Even if the film then does absolutely nothing at all to explore this notion of fate. But anyways, this does follow the aforementioned Nicholas Sparks formula quite closely, so I guess it’s my bad for seeing this and getting annoyed because those who liked his other films will probably like this one. All I know is that, since they all go after the same thing, you might as well just watch The Notebook yet again since that one’s actually pretty great.

Grade: D+

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