This golden-lit and lushly green small-town love story feels blandly unambitious even for a generic romance. Any hopes that this latest adaptation of yet another Nicholas Sparks bestseller might amount to more than soothing soft-core porn for single moms, in other words, will not be fulfilled.
The plot is high-concept hokey. The two no-chemistry leads are blandly robotic. And an abusively jealous ex, whose nasty presence is the screenplay’s only halfway intriguing story element, is neatly disposed of with all the deus ex machina subtlety of a natural disaster.
Zac Efron stars as Logan Thibault (rhymes with Tebow), a discharged Marine who flabbergastingly has no female entanglements back home in Colorado despite being male-model handsome. After some trivial post-traumatic-stress jumpiness freaks out his sister and nephews, he decides to walk — yes, walk — to Louisiana. That’s where he hopes to find the unknown blond in a photo he retrieved from Iraqi rubble after a firefight. Bending over to pick up that pic saved him from the blast of a mortar round, so he regards the pretty stranger as his guardian angel.
When Logan locates the mystery woman (it’s just that easy!) — a dog-loving divorcee named Beth Green (Taylor Schilling) — he takes a job at the kennel she runs without explaining why he was looking for her in the first place. When he tries bringing up the subject later, he still can’t get the words out. This guarantees that when Beth finally learns the truth, she will be confused, concerned and creeped out. You know, just like in every other movie where a guy inexplicably keeps something secret for no reason other than to ensure a later plot complication.
Beth lives in a huge country home with her grandmother (Blythe Danner) and a precocious eight-year-old son who is bullied for playing the violin. Logan bucks up the kid’s confidence, impresses grandma, and gets Beth so hot she all but orgasms watching him unload a pick-up truck. When Beth’s unfathomable resistance to Logan’s manly charms finally breaks down, their stand-up coupling under an outdoor showerhead is such an unconvincing parody of lust that some audience members actually laughed. A meaningful shot of Beth’s dripping hemline is more silly than sexy.
Complicating matters is Beth’s hotheaded hair-trigger ex-husband Keith Clayton (Jay R Ferguson), a belligerent cop who resents Logan on first sight. Because he’s a semi-psychotic stalker and Beth refuses to move out of town, it’s impossible not to wonder how the Beth/Logan (Blogan?) affair can survive without Keith getting forcibly removed from the picture. His villainous presence gives at least a little tension and paranoia to a story that’s otherwise about as interesting as a minivan commercial. Alas, the plot predictably takes the unsatisfyingly easy way out.
Although everything about the movie resembles what guys imagine Lifetime cable movies are like — greeting-card sappy, family-values reaffirming and new-age sensitive — it was directed by Oscar-nominated Scott Hicks (Shine).
Then again, it’s not as if The Lucky One is being marketed as anything other than what it is: an innocuously unchallenging adaptation of a simple-minded popular romance. Anyone seeking a more believable drama — one where the Iraq war, domestic violence and even the effects of a stroke are presented with anything resembling realism — won’t get lucky here.
[Rating: 1.5 stars]
The Lucky One is release in US and Canada Friday April 20, 2012. Australia release is April 19, 2012. UK release is May 2, 2012.
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