The Lucky One
- Director:Scott Hicks
- Cast:Blythe Danner, Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling
- Release Date:April 19, 2012
- Running time:101 minutes
- Film Worth:$9.00
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Shamelessly adhering to Nicholas Sparks’ all too familiar template, this adaptation comes packed with all the expected sap and emotional manipulation.
If anyone's "The Lucky One", it's Nicholas Sparks. How can one author churn out the same sappy material so many times, passing it off as an original story merely because it takes place in a different part of America or a different decade? Somewhat surprisingly, the adaptations of his formulaic weepies have attracted credible directing talent (with his previous big screen outing, 2010's Dear John, directed by the talented Lasse Hallström). His latest adaptation, The Lucky One, sees Australian director Scott Hicks (whose best work includes, of course, Shine, and The Boys Are Back) at the helm. Yet even fine directors can't seem to overcome the sap that is a Sparks story - the cliché runs too deep. Falling victim to his source material, Hicks (working from a screenplay adapted by Will Fetters) fails to invest it with any sort of edge, rendering the cinematic version as mawkish and saccharine as Sparks' bloated prose.
Ripped straight from a close-at-hand template, Sparks delivers his typical go-to leading man with Logan (a buffed up Zac Efron, who luckily comes with a built-in fan base), a brooding yet sensitive marine who returns home after three tours of Iraq. Logan curiously credits his survival to a photograph of a pretty woman he finds in the middle of the warzone, and we watch as he tracks down the mysterious blonde. She turns out to be Beth (Taylor Schilling), a single mother who runs a kennel and just happens to be recruiting help. Lucky. Beth's initially bristly toward Logan's salt-of-the-earth handyman, but soon finds herself falling hard for his understated charms, much to the delight of her grandmother, Ellie (a warm and reliable Blythe Danner), but to the infuriation of Beth's ex-husband and local sheriff, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson).
Contrived from head to toe, one's of the film's major flaws is that despite all the projected melodrama, the personal stakes never feel very high at all. Throughout, the crux of the drama seems to rest on what's going to happen when Beth discovers Logan's photo of her, but the scenario never seems to carry as much weight as the script wants you to believe, with the director and actors seemingly in desperate search for a must-have climactic moment. Similarly, the other source of conflict resides with Beth's bullying ex-husband, but even that strains credibility and feels like an attempted grab for seriousness. While the actors are all capable, none are able to overcome the feeling that they're merely chess pieces in Sparks' game of emotional manipulation. That said, Efron does exhibit soul (though his role as an ex-marine is confined to a handful of clichéd quotes), and he and Schilling manage to find a couple of warm, genuine moments amongst the schmaltz.
Not helping things is the handful of weepy yet hopeful ballads that come to accompany almost every second scene, so that the film begins to play out like one misty-eyed montage. Given its slight premise, The Lucky One meanders in places, but anyone familiar with A Walk To Remember, Dear John, The Last Song, or Nights In Rodanthe, should know that the drama is marching toward the inevitable question of, "Who's going to tragically die or reveal they have a terminal illness?" Shed some tears, but don't be too concerned; in the world of Nicholas Sparks, death always produces a cathartically happy ending.