In a lot of ways actually reviewing The Lucky One is a fruitless pursuit. Based on novel by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Dear John, The Last Song et al), it’s another high-concept weepy scientifically designed to manipulate as many tears as possible out the audience.
These films rely on the strength of their elevator pitch; on paper The Lucky One has a decent-ish one. US Marine Zac Efron finds a discarded photo of a girl whilst on tour in Iraq. As he goes over to pick it up, a bomb goes off and Zac only survives because he made a few steps to the left. He decides the girl in the picture is his guardian angel and vows to find her when he returns to civilian life.
So it’s a hundred minutes of Efron searching America, learning about himself then eventually falling in love with the girl at the end right ?
Well, not really. After the opening credits scene in a disturbingly-clean Iraq, Efron wanders to the next town with his dog and finds her in like ten minutes.
Then, in a scene so forced it ruins any emotional tension to follow, instead of explaining why he’s looking for her straight away, he ends up taking at her small town dog-training business.
That means that the majority of the film is Zac falling in love with her, being a father figure to her young son, and dealing with her douchebag ex-husband. The only tension comes from him struggling to find the right moment to explain about the photo, but really that just amounts to series of Ricky Gervais-style social faux-pas. It’s all rather slickly done, and mildly entertaining, but it’s just so bland. Whether you love it or hate it, The Notebook has an incredibly effective concept and structure that draws you in, and, well, just works. The Lucky Ones is really just nothing – it’s high-concept is abandoned so early on you’re just left with walking cliches in place of characters and nice shots of rural America. There’s some drama shoe-horned into the final act, but that does little to add any interest. Oh, and there’s a wise old grandmother who’s basically a white, female Morgan Freedman and is unbelievably annoying.
It should be noted that Zac Efron is really rather good in the film though. He never really convinces as a grizzled vet – he just looks like a stage school kid – but you can tell he’s trying. He delivers a solid, intense yet restrained, brooding performance. He’s still perceived by the wider world as the kid from High School Musical, but given the right role he really could make a breakthrough to becoming a credible movie star. Remember when DiCaprio was still just the whiney guy from Titanic?
Maybe I shouldn’t be so down on it – these sort of films do what they do, and they have their fans, and they enjoy them. It’s not massively offensive or obnoxious. It’s just so clinical, unremarkable and forgettable that I can’t recommend exerting any effort in trying to see it.