The Lucky One is sappy, with an improbable story made even more ridiculous by a ludicrous third act. In fact, it's so ridiculous and out of place that not only does it feel like one big cheat, it also comes across feeling as though it's lifted (and just ever-so-slightly massaged) from a completely different Sparks story due to a dearth of original ideas for completing this particular Sparks project.
Also working against The Lucky One is the complete and utter lack of chemistry between the two romantic leads. Both are attractive to look at and taken separately are fine on screen. But put them together and any possible romantic spark to the story is quickly stubbed out.
A buffed up Zac Efron plays U.S. Marine Sgt. Logan Thibault, a decent man who finishes up three tours of duty in Iraq to take on another mission, one much more personal than fighting on foreign soil. Logan walks from Colorado to Louisiana - with his loyal dog as his only companion - in search of the woman whose photo he stumbled across outside of a bombed-out building. He's tracked her down by determining where the lighthouse shown in the background of the photo is located, but he doesn't know her name or anything about her. Still, this photo has become his lucky charm and he truly believes it is responsible for allowing him to return alive and safe to the U.S. and his civilian life. And, as seen in one of the few action shots in the film, just the act of walking over to the photo and lifting it up did save his life. The exact place he was standing was hit by a mortar shell just seconds after he noticed something shiny on the ground and walked over to retrieve the photograph. Others were killed, but he was untouched.
Let's back up a second and get this clear. Logan walks over 1,000 miles seemingly without any supplies to find a woman who could be dead for all he knows. She also could have been on vacation when the photo was taken and could live anywhere. But fortunately for our dog-loving hero, not only is she alive and well and just as pretty as her photo, she also A) is not currently involved in a relationship but does have a possessive ex-husband, B) runs a dog kennel, and C) is looking to hire someone who loves dogs, can do a little training, and doesn't mind shoveling poop.
Logan can't bring himself to tell her why he's turned up in her small town of Hamden, Louisiana, and Beth Green (Taylor Schilling) doesn't press him for answers. Instead, she hires him on and it's up to her introverted, violin-playing young son (Riley Thomas Stewart) and her perceptive grandmother (Blythe Danner) to point out the obvious: she's attracted to the muscular Marine. But will the ex win out and force Logan out of Beth's life? Will Logan ever get up the courage to admit to Beth what brought him to Hamden? Did you not read the first paragraph where I explain this is a Nicholas Sparks paint-by-numbers movie?
The Bottom Line:
Why doesn't Beth ask Logan why he's there? Did she really believe he traveled 1,000 miles - on foot! - just because he saw a help wanted ad for a pooper scooper? It's beyond frustrating and bordering on maddening that Beth never comes right out and asks what made him undertake such a long journey. Wouldn't any normal person want to know that answer before allowing this stranger, albeit a handsome and seemingly intelligent ex-Marine, into their home and alone with a young child? And we won't even get into how The Lucky One's third act could quite possibly qualify as one of the most absurd twists to be plugged onto a film in the past decade.
Nicholas Sparks is not only a prolific writer but also one very lucky man. No matter what he writes, Hollywood wants to turn it into a movie. And, no matter how much of a disaster that movie actually is, audiences will be drawn like moths to a flame to check it out in theaters. Maybe we're all hoping this new Sparks film will finally be the one that reaches The Notebook's level of emotionally heart-wrenching, can't drag your eyes away from the screen, don't forget to have a tissue box close by, entertainment. This isn't that movie, by any stretch of the imagination. Not only does the story pale in comparison, Zac Efron is no Ryan Gosling. And Rachel McAdams is still holding tightly to the best romantic leading lady crown when it comes to any film inspired by a Nicholas Sparks book.
The Lucky One actually looks gorgeous, but there's now an assembly line feel to films based on Sparks' novels that neither director Scott Hicks (No Reservations, The Boys are Back) nor screenwriter Will Fetters (Remember Me) can overcome. We need to demand more of these adaptations as this tried and true formula has worn out its welcome. With zero chemistry and laden with cliches, The Lucky One won't leave audiences feeling lucky to have spent two hours of their lives taking in a screening.
The Lucky One was directed by Scott Hicks and is rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence.
Theatrical Release: April 20, 2012