Bow Wow, Loretta Devine, Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Keith David, Bill Bellamy, Terry Crews
Abdul Williams, Erik White
This has certainly been the weekend for formulas.
From the formulaic B-movie adventures of Piranha 3-D to the relatively paint-by-numbers romantic comedy of The Switch, this weekend has been a one of better opening weekends in recent memory for formulaic flicks that still manage to work.
Lottery Ticket is yet another solid example of a film that follows a tried and true formula, but manages to transcend its formulaic roots behind a spirited cast, appealing lead performances and an abundance of good will.
Kevin (Bow Wow) is a young man who dreams of escaping his urban reality by starting his own shoe company. When he finds himself in possession of a winning $370 million lottery ticket, his dreams may very well be on the verge of coming true.
Or will they?
Discovering too late on a Friday to cash in his winning ticket, Kevin must manage to hold on to his winning ticket while living in a neighborhood that is nearly as desperate as he is to escape their stark everyday reality. It's inevitable that the word begins to spread and, before long, Kevin is dodging unexpected family and "friends" along with the neighborhood crime kingpin in an effort to ensure he and his dreams are still alive when Monday rolls around.
A somewhat surprisingly entertaining new comedy from Ice Cube's production company Cube Vision, Lottery Ticket is practically a textbook example of what we've come to expect from your run-of-the-mill urban comedy.
The script from director Erik White and Abdul Williams may be fairly predictable, but lead Bow Wow proves anything but predictable by serving up a performance that is simultaneously funny, grounded and, at times, quite heartfelt. Tyler Perry has proven time and again that audiences will show in droves for films that stress family values, acknowledge urban realities and somehow manage to make an audience both laugh and actually feel something inside.
Lottery Ticket, for the most part, accomplishes all of the above.
Despite the fact that you've seen all of this before, the actors are so invested in what's going on that it's nearly impossible to begrudge the film its worn yet comfortable familiarity.
Films such as Lottery Ticket are popular because they tap into both the desperation to escape reality and the inevitable humor that comes from living within the reality.
As much as he maintains only a background presence in the film, Ice Cube is a joy to behold as a relatively hermit-like aging former boxer, a role that allows him to tap into the film's humor and, again rather surprisingly, serve as the heart and soul of the film.
The community circus that surrounds Kevin is a literal potpourri of actors and actresses who will be familiar to fans of black cinema, if not the wider audience. The eternally maternal Loretta Devine is her usual graceful self as Kevin's God-fearing grandmother, while Brandon Jackson shows up as his best friend and Teairra Mari as a neighborhood temptress envisioning dollars signs in place of love. On the baddie side, Keith David is your not so friendly neighborhood loan shark, while Gbenga Akinnagbe is a bully with his eye on the winning ticket.
Indianapolis native Mike Epps, who seems to be funny and earthy in virtually every film he's in, succeeds again while rapper T-Pain transitions to the big screen quite nicely. Naturi Naughton, who shined in the recent Fame remake, proves a stabilizing force for Kevin as a churchgoing gal of whom his grandmother approves.
The formula in Lottery Ticket doesn't hold together quite as nicely as it does in this weekend's other opening films, Piranha 3-D and The Switch, but the film proves considerably more entertaining than one might expect simply by watching the trailers.
It seems unlikely that Lottery Ticket will prove to be the big winner this weekend at the box-office, but audiences who venture into the theatre this weekend to catch it will be rewarded with a film that drives home a positive community vibe, a genuinely good heart, plenty of laughs and rock solid performances by the entire ensemble cast.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic