The Lucky One
On his first tour in Iraq, Logan (Zac Efron, "New Year's Eve") finds a photograph of a blonde with 'Keep safe. X' written on the back. Ironically, the act of leaning over to pick it up probably saved his life from a blast which felled some of his friends. Logan tries to find the owner of the picture to no avail, but he believes in its power when he survives more close scrapes on subsequent tours. Back in the U.S. and shaken, Logan traces the woman in the picture to Hamden, Louisianna, and walks there from Colorado with his dog, Zeus, to tell her that he is "The Lucky One."
Laura's Review: C
I propose a dice game. Label them with things like 'boat,' 'beach,' 'attraction across socio-economic strata,' 'letter/message,' 'cancer,' 'dementia,' 'one parent child,' 'house building/renovation,' 'military veteran,' then just roll them and one would have the plot of the next Sparks outing. Oddly, "The Lucky One" is the second Nicholas Sparks adaptation (screenwriter Will Fetters, "Remember Me") to have been directed by a multi-Oscar nominated, foreign born director (Scott Hicks, "Shine") which at least makes for a nice looking production, but there is no mistaking who the 'auteur' is here and no amount of technical gloss can extract the sap nor divert from the utter predictability of a Sparks' story. Having matched a background lighthouse online to the one in his picture, Logan arrives in Hamden and starts showing it around. A local tells him the woman owns Green Kennels and announces Sparks' conflict by adding that she used to be married to his best friend. There's an obvious spark between Logan and Beth (Taylor Schilling, "Dark Matter") when he meets her, even if he seems a bit young for her (Efron is three years younger than Schilling), but the script requires her to overreact and peg him as a loon when she learns about his long walk (the romantic obstacle!). Logan doesn't correct Beth's misunderstanding about why he came (she assumes he's responding to her wanted ad) and spends the rest of the film working up to telling her about the picture. Beth's mom Ellie (Blythe Danner, "Little Fockers," "What's Your Number?") plays Fairy Godmother, though, and hires him behind Beth's back. Soon Logan is being threatened by Beth's ex, Deputy Sherriff Keith Clayton (Jay R. Ferguson, 'Mad Men's' Stan Rizzo), and bonding with her young son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart, "The Beaver") when he isn't turning a dilapidated old house into a rustic haven. Everything comes to a head with a ridiculously contrived and convenient climax. The screenplay also expects us to make some leaps of faith, such as accepting that a guy from a land locked state whose only experience outside it is in the Iraqi desert can repair a boat or that a 10 year old would understand the implications of an adult relationship breakdown based upon the irrational behavior of his mother. Zac Efron tries to affect maturity and gravity into his character by maintaining an earnest expression throughout the film. It's not exactly a bad performance, just not a very varied one, but it works more or less given the scope of the material. Ferguson goes the opposite route, all macho bluster or blubbering self pity. Blythe Danner is a welcome presence, adding her usual amused warmth, but one must wonder what's up with her choice of material lately - is this all there is for such talented actresses of a certain age? Schilling does an OK job playing a young woman reembracing life. The film is nicely shot by cinematographer Alar Kivilo ("The Blind Side"), taking advantage of typical Sparks' style locations (lawn parties, churches, sailboats, sun dappled rural roads). With "The Lucky One," Scott Hicks has dressed up a Harlequin romance in a leather binding. For what it is, it's watchable.