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The Independent Critic

Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner
Scott Hicks
Nicholas Sparks (Novel), Will Fetters
Rated PG-13
101 Mins.
Warner Brothers

 "The Lucky One" Review 
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The best thing that can be said about The Lucky One is that it's exactly the film it's trying to be. If you're anxiously awaiting the film, the latest in the Nicholas Sparks inspired cinematic endeavors, then there's a good chance you'll leave the movie theater all misty-eyed and feeling better about love. If, on the other hand, the only Nicholas Sparks inspired film to float your boat has been The Notebook then there's an even better chance you'll take The Lucky One exactly for what it is - The latest teeny-bopper targeted romantic weepie with beautiful people making beautiful, PG-13 love and saying all the things that cinema-driven love says.

Take your pick.

It would be almost impossible to hate The Lucky One, because the film is so incredibly safe and vanilla that it's doubtful that it will elicit a strong response either from its defenders or its detractors. I didn't hate The Lucky One, though the film drove me absolutely mad because it was so considerably less romantic than it really should have been.

In the film, Logan (Zac Efron, High School Musical) is an American soldier who is almost buried alive in rubble after an explosion. Logan was saved by his momentary decision to bend over and pick up a faded photograph of a beautiful blonde woman with the words hand-written on the back "Keep Safe." The photo stays with him through three tours of duty, and when he finally returns home he's determined to track down this nameless woman to thank her for saving his life. In the kind of coincidence that seemingly only happens in Nicholas Sparks inspired films, Logan has no clue her name or location but is in Louisiana upon his return and just happens to see her.

There's a key point as to whether or not you'll appreciate The Lucky One. Did that last statement strike you as incredibly romantic or completely ludicrous? The answer may very well determine whether or not you should see The Lucky One.

I stand by my belief that Zac Efron is a decent actor becoming better with each film, despite his largely becoming a household name in the High School Musical films. Efron is an almost impossibly handsome young actor who's able to convincingly portray onscreen that he's completely unaware that he's out of nearly every woman's league. While Efron hasn't yet acquired the emotional range and vulnerability needed to successfully pull off wide-ranging roles, he's essentially a more convincing Channing Tatum minus the six-pack abs and working class humor that have helped turn Tatum into an A-lister.

In fact, Efron might do well to take a page out of Tatum's playbook and take some of the risks that Tatum takes with his career. Tatum has balanced his willingness to play the stereotypical handsome hunk with a willingness to get in over his head while trying to become a better actor opposite some of Hollywood's best actors. While he hasn't always been successful, it's hard not to admire Tatum's constant pushing of himself. Efron's post-High School Musical choices, on the other hand, have been fairly safe choices mostly along the lines of light comedy and light romantic drama.

There's nothing risky about The Lucky One, though it's a safe enough choice for Efron that I doubt anyone would begrudge his signing on for the lead in the always popular Nicholas Sparks type films. With his warm eyes and persona, Efron's a natural for this kind of film and it certainly won't tax his emotions. Beth (Taylor Schilling), the woman in the picture, may be leery of Logan's arrival at her dog kennel but she's not leery in the "Oh my God, he's a stalker" kind of way. That could be, of course, because her selection in men isn't that particularly great as evidenced by her having become parent to Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) courtesy of her abusive and drunken ex-boyfriend (Jay R. Ferguson), who also just happens to serve as the deputy sheriff for this small town and thinks nothing of threatening her custody of Ben once Logan starts hanging around.

Thankfully, as is always true in a Nicholas Sparks film, there's someone wise from which to learn in the form of her Nana (Blythe Danner). Danner's presence here may only serve as a reminder that it was the elder folks in Hollywood who figured out how best to bring Nicholas Sparks material to life in the film that started it all, The Notebook.

If you've appreciated all the other Nicholas Sparks films, or even simply most of them, then by all means you should probably see The Lucky One. The film is neither as emotionally resonant as The Notebook nor as emotionally vacant as The Last Song. The film is, quite simply, exactly the film you likely expect it and want it to be. For some of you, this will be enough. For others, it will elicit the response of "Not again."

Yes, again. So what is it? Do you feel lucky, punk?

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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