The Marines are engaged in a ferocious battle, so how lucky is any jarhead to be saved by the photo of a woman he’s never even met? The soldier believes the smallest thing can change his life. And to search for the light, sometimes one must pass through the deepest darkness. Tons of guns and bullets, but did you guess “chick-flick” anyway?
Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”), this predictable and sappy feature is everything the huge Sparks following craves. The leads must be not only be charismatic but generate their own sparks with each other. We must like them individually and want them to be drawn to each other, in spite of life’s challenges.
Disney’s “High School Musical” star Zac Efron is all grown up and featured in his first serious adult role. As Logan, the young hunk doesn’t miss a beat in his transition to a melancholy marine with a tormented soul. Taylor Schilling, from TV’s “Mercy” is sufficiently attractive and vulnerable, yet not so much to threaten the female fan base.
Director Scott Hicks (“Shine”) brilliantly casts award winning actress Blythe Danner (mother of Gwyneth Paltrow) as Ellie, Beth’s grandmother. Danner optimizes each of her minimal number of lines with subtle body language and enough eye movement to become a catalyst to the budding relationship of this romantic melodrama.
Director Hicks also realizes the backdrop is as critical to the fairy tale romance as the sentimentality and stars. Filmed in Louisiana, the cinematography could have been filmed by the Louisiana State Tourism Board. We are treated to the lazy hazy bayou country of plantations, lakes, boats, trees and Dixieland jazz.
On the flip side, the local sheriff, who could easily be named Biff, is Beth’s “ex.” So poor Logan gets a first-hand taste of Southern justice. Not sure why, but in the movies, every Southern sheriff not named Buford Pusser is sinister. Wonder if there will be a confrontation? Okay, so it’s all very formulaic and predictable but that’s why it works.
When Logan finds out who the woman in the photo is, he walks from his sister’s home in Colorado to Louisiana without so much as a jacket or a duffel bag. He shows up at the kennel Beth runs to tell his implausible tale. But, when she assumes Logan is applying for the handyman position, he decides to stay. Beth isn’t sure about Logan even though he’s about her age, cute as a chipmunk and loves puppies.
He leers and she’s leery. Beth is as reserved as she can be in her boots and Daisy-Duke short shorts. So she asks, “Why did you come here?” Logan responds, “To find you.” Now, how sweet is that? As Beth is apprehensive, grandma Ellie likes the hunk and hires him on the spot. This sounds like the premise to TV’s “Who’s the Boss.” We don’t want to give anything away, but despite her initial mistrust and complications in Beth’s life, a romance just might start to develop for the girl born on the bayou.
A bulked up Zac Efron performs well even without the assistance of the Tiger Beat crowd. His serious expressions make him sometimes look seriously ready to cry. But, he has proven to be more than eye candy and able to perform exceedingly well in any upcoming role of his choosing. We expect he will have a promising future.
“The Lucky One” is 101 minutes and rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence. Sure, most guys will find this to be unbearably sentimental and even sappy. But, despite its length, slow pace and over-the-top characters, it is precisely what its fan base came to see.
Another bright spot is Riley Thomas Stewart, who plays Beth’s youngster with sufficient personality without being obnoxious. The kid displays his talents with Logan in their own High School Musical. Logan has suffered through three tours of duty and is still considered lucky. Yet, we’re reminded it is wise to never invest with a guy named Lucky.
Ron’s Rating: C Leigh’s Rating: B+