The majority of my fellow critics have jumped on this largely inoffensive little movie with undue vigor. Perhaps they used up all of their superlatives with their mystifying praise of Mission: Impossible III — a film they applauded for being the lobotomized actioner it set out to be. Strange then that they’re quick to fault Just My Luck for being the exact kind of cinematic frou-frou it intended to be. Of course, much of this has to do with star Lindsay Lohan’s occasionally tasteless tabloid antics that wouldn’t even merit a yawn were they attributed to any other 19-year-old. Forget the tabloid nonsense. Avert your eyes from the movie’s poster (one of the worst in living memory). Take Just My Luck for what it is — a moderately successful attempt to move Lohan away from teenage roles and into an adult one. That’s a tricky proposition at best. I’ve only seen it done smoothly once — when Henry Koster’s First Love (1939) effortlessly transformed Deanna Durbin from child star to star in 84 minutes. Oddly, that film and this one are both more than a little grounded in the Cinderella story. Unfortunately, Just My Luck is not even close to being in the same league as First Love.
To start, a small army of writers cobbled the screenplay together — and it feels exactly like the committee effort it is. Worse, it feels like one that bent over backwards to incorporate as much from Lohan’s two biggest hits, Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, into its fabric as possible. Instead of magically switching bodies with Jamie Lee Curtis as in Freaky Friday, she trades her character’s impossibly good luck for the unlikely bad luck of would-be rock impressario Jake Hardin (Chris Pine, The Princess Diaries 2). Just My Luck also makes a tentative stab at co-opting the tone of Mean Girls — and that’s where it makes its first false step. Lohan’s Ashley Albright is apparently supposed to be something of a mean girl, but the script never takes the idea past a kind of Mean Girls-lite. In fact, she’s not a lot more than casually thoughtless. As a result, once she kisses Jake and swaps luck with him, there’s no satisfaction in watching her comeuppance since she’s done nothing to merit this downfall. Worse, she seems less to have become unlucky than terminally stupid. Nearly every accident that befalls Ashley — from nearly electrocuting herself three times to flooding a room with soap suds — is the direct result of stupidity, not luck.
Adding to the debit side of the film is the inclusion of the Brit boy band McFly into the proceedings. Setting aside the dubious issue of a band that takes its name from a character out of Back to the Future, there’s the fact that the movie stops in its tracks several times to showcase this remarkably generic group. It ain’t pretty.
It also doesn’t help that the script has written itself into a corner with its very premise. How do you resolve a romance between two characters who switch luck every time they kiss? The answer is that you can’t, but you can come up with a cop-out.
Yet for all its undeniable shortcomings, Just My Luck is still fairly entertaining. Lohan retains her basic appeal and refreshing naturalness even when the film falters, and she successfully crosses into the realm of adulthood — albeit in a very lightweight manner. With a good script and a more inspired director she may well become the actress her earlier work suggested. Perhaps her appearance in Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion next month will prove that. Rated PG-13 for some brief sexual references.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke