‘Lucky One’ rather unfortunate

Article Published: Apr. 26, 2012 | Modified: Apr. 27, 2012
‘Lucky One’ rather unfortunate

Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron star in ‘The Lucky One.’

There’s nothing lucky about it.

“The Lucky One,” the latest big-screen adaptation of a bestselling Nicholas Sparks novel, was destined to succeed.

Never mind the dull, meandering pace, its vacant-eyed star or the complete lack of anything remotely resembling a plot. This is a film based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, destined for box office success as soon as the author clicked “Save.” Sure enough, “The Lucky One” raked in $22.5 million during its opening weekend.

I’m not faulting Sparks. The man knows what works for his readers and admirably contributes a more than generous share of his significant earnings to charity. But what works for his readers doesn’t necessarily work for viewers, as evidenced in “The Lucky One.”

Maybe something was lost in translation from page to screen, but this is one boring movie. If an audience is keen on watching star Zac Efron stare blankly into the distance, take off his shirt and say things like “You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute,” then director Scott Hicks (“Shine”) and screenwriter Will Fetters (“Remember Me”) have succeeded.

For those seeking something like substance and character – you know, the cornerstones of an effective romance story – they’d be better off watching a bowl of Lucky Charms.

Efron stars as Marine Sgt. Logan Thibault, who, while serving in Iraq, notices in the rubble a photo of an attractive young woman. Inspecting it, he finds a message on the back that reads, “Keep safe,” and, less than a moment later, an enemy bomb detonates in the very spot Logan was previously standing. Had the photo not caught his eye, he’d be dead.

After fruitlessly searching for the photo’s owner, Logan decides to keep it, as all his cohorts see it as a good luck charm, calling the mystery girl his guardian angel. Sure enough, he survives three tours of duty before returning stateside.

But back home in Colorado, Logan’s having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he decides it’s best for everyone if he – along with his faithful German shepherd, Zeus – hit the road. His destination: wherever that girl in the photograph lives, so he might personally thank her for saving his life.

Somehow, he tracks her to a small town in Louisiana. The mystery girl, Beth (Taylor Schilling, “Atlas Shrugged”), is a young divorcee living and working with her mother (Blythe Danner, “Paul”), who runs the local kennel.

Logan shows up out of the blue and, before he can deliver his thanks, Beth assumes he’s applying for a job. Rather than tell her anyway, he plays along and ends up working at the kennel, where he walks around, picks things up, puts them down, fixes a tractor and stares at people, places and things.

In his downtime, he strikes up a friendship with Beth’s son (Riley Thomas Stewart, “The Beaver”), winning Beth’s affection, which inevitably blossoms into something more. All the while, however, he keeps the photo secret, fearing it will jeopardize their newfound romance.

The only modicum of conflict in “The Lucky One” comes from Beth’s ex-husband, an abusive and practically psychotic sheriff’s deputy (Jay R. Ferguson, TV’s “Mad Men”), who threatens to take full custody of their son should Beth start dating again.

The filmmakers might have gone somewhere with Logan’s PTSD, but that subplot vanishes upon his arrival in Louisiana, giving way to sun-washed scenes of Efron and Schilling frolicking about in the throes of puppy love (because they work in a kennel, see).

From the opening scene, “The Lucky One” spends its time building up to something, but it’s as if the filmmakers don’t know what they’re building, nor do they have the right tools.

Efron just doesn’t have the screen presence required of the strong, silent type. But there’s one thing he does have – blue eyes, which the filmmakers are hellbent on showing off. Logan doesn’t talk much, meaning the actor must find other ways of expressing the character’s thoughts and feelings. Naturally, Efron attempts this through staring, but lacks the charisma to make it remotely effective.

Schilling, however, brings some vivacity to the picture, despite some unfortunate dialogue and Efron’s stilted performance, which dissolves any chemistry these characters might have shared.
The only reason their romance seems somewhat believable is because we know what’s bound to happen – someone’s going to get lucky, and it isn’t the audience.

“The Lucky One,” rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 12-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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