Editor’s note: This review was first published April 20, 2012.
‘The Lucky One’ a typical Nicholas Sparks book-made-movie
“The Lucky One” is a Nicholas Sparks movie. (And yes, being a Nicholas Sparks movie now classifies as its own sub-genre.) If you’ve ever seen one of Sparks’ seven books-turned-movie (“The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember,” “The Last Song” and the list goes on …), then you understand the basic premise (because he’s not particularly inventive).
Normally, someone dies. Actually, normally a few people die. (Most times, it involves a serious, often fatal, disease. Not in “The Lucky One,” though, were Operation Iraqi Freedom is the culprit.) The South is home eternal, this time Louisiana, where water and white people run rampant. A young man and a young woman will no doubt fall in love, but not without trails: a rival, a secret, even Mother Nature. Passion tends to manifest during a heavy rainstorm (or an outdoor shower).
This scene typically unfolds in a mist of spirituality, with which there is no particular religion associated. Sparks revels in redemption, and “Lucky One” is no different; here, though surrounded by pain and grief, the characters and their actions focus on destiny, one in which they have the choice to live happily ever after if they so choose. You’ll cry, even if you don’t understand why, and then walk away in a love-y bliss.
But back to the plot. “The Lucky One,” directed by Scott Hicks (“Shine”) with the screenplay written by Will Fetters, introduces us to a man of few words and a good heart, a Marine Corps sergeant named Logan Thibault. He has served three tours of duty in Iraq.
The issue here: The Marine is played by Zac Efron, of “High School Musical” fame. And though his baby blues seem as if they’ve seen some horrible things and his face has the a thick stubble, Efron simply lacks the gravitas needed for this type of role. His best acting takes place during the movie’s comedic moments, where he is the joyful young man known to all. (This isn’t to say he’s a bad actor; reference “Me and Orson Welles.”)
Credit must be given to Sparks for showcasing that war is not all glory. Like with another of his movies, “Dear John,” Sparks shows us the reality of the horrors the last 10 years have wrought on Americans serving in the military. And he does so without preaching, merely reminding us that some scars are more than skin-deep.
Logan, after surviving a firefight, finds a photo in the aftermath. The snapshot’s owner can’t be found, so he holds onto it, believing the pretty woman in the picture and its message (“Stay safe,” next to a cross) have saved him from certain death.
When he returns, on perpetual edge, he seeks out — on foot, with his dog — to find his guardian angel and to thank her. Somehow, with just a picture and a lot of luck, he finds her. (It borders on the verge of stalker-ish, but that’s another story.)
At least Beth (a solid Taylor Schilling), the girl Logan seeks, has the common sense to be wary of him, even if he is harmless. Her grandmother (Blythe Danner) flippantly ignores her wariness and welcomes him with open arms, as does Beth’s son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). Yes, Sparks has a thing for cute kids being integral in his stories.
Logan takes a job at Beth’s dog kennel, enjoying the simple life. Soon, as with all wannabe-melodramas, strife appears, this time in the form of an ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson), a sheriff’s deputy with powerful local connections and a poisonous attitude. He’s less than friendly when it comes to Logan, and provides much of the movie’s antagonism.
But you’ve seen this before. The movie is absurd, and its complexities are only so because they make little sense in reality. But that’s not why people see these types of films. They want redemption, love and some drama along the way. “The Lucky One” provides that in spades, even if you feel unlucky for having just watched it.
Two lovey-dovey stars out of five.