3, May 2012

The Lucky One

Director: Scott Hicks - Run time: 101 mins

Review by Bill Harrington

The Lucky One is a fairly lazy vehicle for Zac Efron to demonstrate that he is all grown up and has a new muscular physique to show off for the titillation of his fans. Judging by the non-appreciative giggling from the girls at the preview screening however, the film-makers may have underestimated those fansÂ’ requirement for a script not so steeped in cliché.

It is the fourth occasion that producer Denise Di Novi has brought a Nicholas Sparks novel to the screen, which suggests a taste for the sentimental surprising for the woman who also produced the terrifically cynical Batman Returns. Efron plays Logan Thibault, a courageous marine returning safely home to the US following three 'tours' in Iraq. He attributes his escape from several near-fatal incidents to a good luck charm; a photograph of a mystery woman that he found moments before a mortar hit his company but narrowly missed him. On his return to the States he sets out to find the woman in the photo (which he does with remarkable efficiency considering the lack of detail he has to work with), and thank her for being his unwitting guardian angel. She turns out to be Beth (Taylor Schilling), the owner of a dog kennels business, mother of 9 year old Ben and ex-wife of aggressively jealous Keith (Jay R. Ferguson). Failing to disclose the true reason for his sudden appearance, Beth assumes he is interested in a job vacancy and, urged on by her spunky mother (Blythe Danner), she hires him. A fragile relationship thus begins.

Quite honestly you may need syrup proof wellies to sit through The Lucky One in comfort, and possibly waders depending on your height. Alarm bells are set off by a pre-credits monologue about 'following your heart' or some such nonsense and from then on in the film delivers drippy romance cliché on-rails. One consequence of this is the film is entirely tension free. We know that Logan is going to fall for the pretty lady and we know that she'll probably succumb to his charms and we're quite certain the ex-husband will prove problematic and we are even sure the lady will have her own doubts, but ultimately we're quite convinced it will all work out in the end, although even we are likely to be surprised just how conveniently it does.

Efron has bulked up for this role, but his boyish looks and blank wide-eyed stare dominate his performance. He acts better with his voice than his mostly static, expressionless face, which may be due to either the character's shell-shock or simply the actor's lack of range. There's some amusing attempts to add depth to his character. He's not just a war machine - he likes reading poetry and Nietzche, has an affinity with dogs, and he plays chess (although badly as it happens as he loses regularly to the 9 year old). He is also musical, naturally. As an extra treat for his swooning fans there's a sex scene which remarkably manages to be both slightly risqué and anodyne. Like everything else in the film, it is played safe.

Then again I don't suppose the majority of the intended audience would go to see this film for artistic merit or intellectual challenge. If easily digested, quickly forgotten fluff is what is required, this is a reasonably entertaining example. The story bumps along at a fair lick, with the first half actually being reasonably entertaining, and the setting is attractive. See it also for a tremendously ill-judged visual effect near the beginning, as Efron is shown suffering the blast effects of a rocket hit on his armoured vehicle, which are shown to be similar to the effects experienced by some cub scouts on a roller-coaster for the Jim'll Fix It programme many years ago.