I can’t quite say I was pleasantly surprised with Erik White’s Lottery Ticket. Instead, the most enthusiasm I can muster is pleasantly underwhelmed. With no star power, a writer and director with no feature experience, and a trailer that makes the film look like it was made for a buck and a quarter, the movie had all the characteristics to be an unmitigated lemon. While the fact that the movie is kindhearted and occasionally pleasant may not be enough for a full-on recommendation, it is enough to not entirely write Lottery Ticket off.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve literally seen the entire film, right up to the climax. You already know that the film is about Kevin (Bow Wow), a kid from the projects who wins the lottery. There’s a fly in the filthy rich ointment, however, since he wins on a Saturday and can’t redeem the ticket till the following Tuesday due to the July 4 holiday. This wouldn’t be an issue, except that everyone in Kevin’s neighborhood is out to get a piece of his jackpot, from a crime boss (Keith David, Death at a Funeral) to a recently released ex-con (Gbenga Akinnagbe, Edge of Darkness).
This leads to Kevin and his best friend Benny (Brandon T. Jackson, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) having to dodge all types of characters who live in the same underprivileged neighborhood, from the unsavory to the outlandish. This is the key to the entire film, since the issue Lottery Ticket wants to address—when it feels like addressing issues—is poverty.
But don’t worry, this isn’t a message picture. Rather, the film is a comedy with occasional things on its mind. Comedy is where its concerns lie. However, while the film is never obnoxious, I wouldn’t call it the height of knee-slapping hilarity either. Lottery Ticket is at its best when it’s simply being likable and harmless. It helps that Bow Wow has a bit of on-screen charisma to him, while Brandon T. Jackson—who is primarily the comic-relief sidekick—has enough range to pull off the heavier lifting in the acting department when the film calls for it.
Even with all this in the movie’s favor, Lottery Ticket is nevertheless a film that runs on rails as far as predictability is concerned. Every plot point, every entanglement can be guessed by the time all of the characters are introduced. This doesn’t quite ruin the movie, but it does put Lottery Ticket more than a bit on the side of tedium. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, including a drug reference, some violence and brief underage drinking.