Review: 'The Lucky One', based on Nicholas Sparks book, is too little, too lame

Published April 18, 2012

Move along, guys. Nothing to see in The Lucky One, unless you're in the doghouse at home and need to make nice. The movie isn't even in 3-D. How else do you expect real men to see two mushy hearts beating as one?

The Lucky One is based on another novel of convoluted yearning by Nicholas Sparks, the dude responsible for The Notebook, Dear John and several other movies you wouldn't want your bowling buddies to know you sat through. Making the lady in your life happy has its costs, doesn't it?

This unlucky one has a bit of each in its DNA: an Iraq war veteran, an aging romantic, a rival for affection with no business being considered, an adorable moppet, and an emotionally damaged young woman primed for true love. It's a movie beginning with the voiceover cliche "You know, the smallest thing can change your life" then spending too long proving it.

For U.S. Marine Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) the smallest thing actually saves his life: In picking up a photograph of a beautiful woman during combat, he dodges a deadly explosion. She is Beth Green (Taylor Schilling), the sister of a Marine who wasn't so lucky. Logan tracks her down before the opening credits end, then purposely delays doing whatever he came to do because she looks so lovely in soft-focus sunsets.

Beth and her wise, post-stroke Nana (Blythe Danner) run a dog kennel, so Logan and his German shepherd Zeus fit right in. Beth's son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) enjoys having a new playmate. Her ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) hates the competition, abusing his position as a police officer to hassle Logan. Keith looks and behaves like Biff from Back to the Future, so his threats are difficult to take seriously.

We know what's going to happen, so let's focus on why it's done poorly. Efron appears too soft to be battle-hardened, with postwar stress evoked only by a 1,000-yard stare when people are two feet away. Schilling has little going for her except resembling better actors when they were young, like Robin Wright Penn and Naomi Watts. Danner is a pro with over-the-shoulder gazes at anything poignant.

Director Scott Hicks realizes the dramatic emptiness of Sparks' prose, watered down further by Will Fetters' adaptation. So, he piles on the musical interludes to convey what the script can't. They start as montages, of Logan walking to Louisiana from Colorado and settling into a rundown house due for a makeover in a later montage. There's even a musical interlude when characters are rehearsing different music. By then montages are too much trouble, so Hicks sticks with one setting.

I missed the scene when Beth boo-hoos about her brother because at that moment a wailing child brought by thoughtless parents started boo-hooing himself, as if declaring: "Hey, I'm 3. I shouldn't be at this movie." The parents eventually left with the kid, who in my book is the real lucky one.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365.