With Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner. Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson. Written by Will Fetters. Directed by Scott Hicks. Rated PG-13 (for some sexuality and violence). 101 minutes.
In THE LUCKY ONE, Logan (Zac Efron) comes back from Iraq after several tours of duty. He survived a terrible attack because he walked over to retrieve a photo of a young woman. This unknown woman becomes his guardian angel and when he returns to States, he sets out to find out who she is. Yes, we are in Nicholas Sparks territory, and maudlin romance is on the menu.
When he shows up in North Carolina with his dog, he finds that Beth (Taylor Schilling) is a divorced mother of a young boy who runs a kennel. Her ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) is an obnoxious jerk who wants to continue bossing her around and doesn’t like this new man in her life. Meanwhile, her mother Ellie (Blythe Danner) can be expected to make the feisty and honest comments the audience is thinking and that Beth needs to hear.
Any bets where this is going? This is a paint-by-numbers romance without a trace of subtlety, wit or sophistication. Of course Logan can’t bring himself to tell Beth what brought him there up front and instead pretends he’s looking for a job. He bonds with her son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) who – ho, ho – kicks Logan’s butt at chess. He has run-ins with Keith, who doesn’t appreciate that Logan is ex-military. And, naturally, he and Beth fall in love – with Ellie’s blessing – but with that deep, dark secret hanging over them.
Apparently, Logan has never seen a single movie where holding out on your girlfriend inevitably leads to a major crisis of trust, and doesn’t realize that the longer he waits the tougher it will be. By the time there’s a storm and Ben is in danger, you realize the movie theater needs an optometrist on call to help viewers suffering excessive strain from rolling their eyes. This is claptrap and whether you enjoy it or not there’s absolutely no reason to take it seriously.
Zac Efron continues to prove himself serious eye candy for the ladies in his post “High School Musical” roles, but has yet to land the role where he’s required to be more than a cardboard cutout. (He came closest in the little seen – alas – “Me And Orson Welles.”) Wayland native Taylor Schilling is fetching and engaging, but isn’t required to be much more than that in a barely-sketched in role. And veteran actress Blythe Danner shows she can get more mileage phoning it in than the rest of the cast can achieve acting up a storm.
In the same way unlucky women get dragged to pedestrian action movies on dates, unlucky guys will have to endure “The Lucky One.” Get a big tub of popcorn, chew slowly, and if you don’t complain too much afterwards, it’s possible you may be “The Lucky One” after all.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.