There are two ways for me to go about reviewing The Lucky One. One is a lay-up, which would be to take aim at every ridiculous moment from the lead character’s cross-country Forrest Gump-ing from Colorado to Louisiana, the philosophy quotes and the anticipated moment where one character says, “I know I should have told you… I tried… I didn’t know how!” That right there is a line that comes pre-packaged with every sappy romantic drama ever written, because if he did know how to tell her the film wouldn’t be 122 minutes long, it would be 15 minutes and people aren’t paying for 15 minutes of reality, they are paying for two hours of an escape from reality and The Lucky One definitely delivers in that department.
This brings me to the other approach I could, and will, use to review this movie. Something of an accepting in-betweener. I can’t let this film off the hook for it’s less than logical miscues, but I can realize and accept them them as a reality when it comes to films of this sort.
Make no mistake, The Lucky One is not a good movie, but what we’re talking about here is a film that simply wasn’t made for me. Romance movies such as this are to women what low-level action movies are to men. Neither one delivers any kind of real substance, but they do manage to deliver what the audience came to see. In action movies it’s typically things blowing up, death-defying stunts and impossible missions. Some are better than others and some are far worse, which is to say the highest compliment I can pay to The Lucky One is that it is more the sappy romance equivalent to the recently released Lockout than it is to the truly awful Wrath of the Titans.
Centering on U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (played by Zac Efron who is anything but believable as a marine), the film begins as his squad is ambushed in Afghanistan. While he watches others around him die, he ends up walking away unscathed only to notice something shining in the sun. Being a person that is attracted to shiny objects he walks over to find a picture of a loved one that has clearly been dropped. It’s at that moment a bomb explodes where he was previously standing, killing additional members of his team, but he remains alive. It’s… as if… the picture saved him.
Logan soon begins believing the picture is his guardian angel as that is not the last brush with death he survives and after his third tour is completed he returns home to Colorado with a case of PTSD. Feeling out of touch with the family around him he grabs his dog Zeus and heads off. Where, you might ask? Well, he’s heading off to find the girl in the picture so he can thank her. Somehow he has managed to match a lighthouse in the background of the photo (apparently because there are only like two lighthouses in all of the United States) and decides he’s going to walk the 1,200 or so miles from Colorado to the fictional town of Hamden, Louisiana.
Skipping ahead, he finds the girl — her name is Beth (Taylor Schilling) — and before he can tell her the story about the picture, her grandmother (Blythe Danner) offers him a job at their family-run dog kennel and the moment is lost. As is often the case, the reason he’s there will now have to pop up at the most inopportune time, throw the plot into chaos just long enough to have people wondering if they’ll get back together, which is when you cue the sun-drenched middle-of-the-street make-out session. To be honest, I could have written this review without actually seeing the movie, but it was in the seeing that I realized something.
I wasn’t as actively offended by this film that I believe I would have been eight years ago, which is when I saw The Notebook, a romantic drama far more sappy than this one, though, probably, a better executed one. For whatever reason, be it the fact this film had a beginning, middle and end (something Wrath of the Titans can’t even claim) I wasn’t entirely ready to back the bus over it. Granted, it definitely wore me down.
The walk from Colorado to Louisiana is just the start of things. I didn’t mention Beth’s crazy, jealous and potentially mentally challenged ex-husband/baby-daddy Keith, played with all the chops of a seasoned soap opera actor by Jay R. Ferguson. I won’t go into detail about the film’s climax or the questionable geography of this fictional small town as everyone seems to live so close and yet-so-far away from one another. I won’t mention the time Keith slapped groceries out of Logan’s arms and pointed his police-issued gun at him. Nope, not going to mention that last bit.
You can poke holes in this thing until you’re blue in the face and the fact of the matter is no, it’s not a good movie. It may find some appeal with its target audience, but that may end up being a stretch as I got the feeling from my screening even the ladies in the crowd were growing a bit annoyed with some of the more tedious and far-fetched moments. But in the end the heart normally wins out. Just as there are small pieces of terrible action movies that can make them a little better than the film really deserves (Guy Pearce in Lockout), I’m sure the target audience will get swept away in this film’s ending. I don’t have a problem with that, but I certainly won’t be making any effort to see it again.