Scott Hicks’ The Lucky One is the seventh movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, and at this point, there’s nearly no point in reviewing new ones. If you’ve been subjected to Sparks’ brand of schmaltzy, noble, magical romance, then you know exactly what to expect from The Lucky One—and you’ll know exactly whether or not this is your cup of mawkish, melodramatic tea. About the best you can hope for with these movies is some degree of technical competence from the filmmakers and performers who don’t make you gag. This is why I don’t shudder at the thought of Lasse Hallström’s Dear John (2010), and why the only thing I remember from the Miley Cyrus vehicle The Last Song (2010) is the performance of a raccoon.
The Lucky One falls into the tolerable category, mostly due to Hicks’ direction. I’m not sure why Hicks finds himself in Sparks purgatory, after once having had a nice career centered around films like Shine (1996). The film is a slick production with a handful of eye-catching compositions, but despite the professional, classy touch Hicks brings to the production, this is wholly Sparks’ show. No director would be able to pull this film out from the dregs of its own self-induced melodrama.
In The Lucky One, we have a beefed-up, less baby-faced Zac Efron as Logan, a Marine serving in Iraq who credits the accidental discovery of a photo of a woman he doesn’t know with saving his life. Keeping it as a good luck charm, Logan heads back home, only to find life after the war much more difficult an adjustment than he’d ever imagined. In order to get his life together, he heads to Louisiana to find the woman in the picture.
The movie follows the basic romantic story arc, as Logan finds the woman, Beth (Taylor Schilling, Atlas Shrugged: Part I), and instead of just talking to her about the photo, insinuates himself into her life—and her multitude of personal issues. (Her brother died in the Iraq war, and she’s a single mom with an abusive, controlling ex-husband). Of course, the lack of honesty surrounding the photo—and Logan’s inability to simply be an adult—pops back up during the requisite third-act misunderstanding (and eventual make-up), but the bulk of the movie revolves around these broken people finding ways to tidy up their lives within 90 minutes.
Everything devolves into dramatic mush (unfortunately, not of the overheated variety). Most of it is understated, but occasionally—as in the film’s climax—the soapiness of it all rises to astounding heights of silliness. I’m of the mind that if the film could’ve kept that level of absurdity going throughout its entire runtime, The Lucky One might have been an entertaining piece of overwrought trash. But Sparks fancies himself too classy for that, and as a result, it’s mostly just dull, formulaic and rote. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence.