Lucky Numbers

Movie Information

Genre: Dark Comedy
Director: Nora Ephron
Starring: John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth
Rated: R

Wanna feel lucky? Go see any other movie in town. Lucky Numbers is a lame story about three greedy people who try to scam the Pennsylvania state lottery. Two of the greedy people are guys, one’s a gal. But don’t think this is an equal three-way split. Perhaps because Lucky Numbers starts so well, its despicable ending is all the more disappointing. Despite his charm and enormous popularity, TV weatherman Russ Richards — played to the beefy, smarmy hilt by John Travolta (The General’s Daughter) — is broke. Desperate, he seeks counsel from Gig (Pulp Fiction’s Tim Roth), a reptilian, devil-eared sleazoid. Shallow though each of these male characters are, both the script and the enormous talents of Travolta and Roth make them interesting for the first half-hour. There’s clever dialogue (screenwriter Adam Resnick) and a memorable scene in which Roth plants the seed of corruption with Travolta. Their brilliant idea: Convince the station’s ditzy Lotto Gal, Crystal (Lisa Kudrow of TV’s Friends), to conspire with them to win the $6 million lotto. When Crystal enters in all her sequined, hipless glory, audience expectation runs high. Kudrow is a terrific actress — surely she will provide a worthy third foil in this about-to-be-clever crime caper? No such luck. Crystal is a dense, sluttish, manipulative dimwit in teetering high heels. Okay — maybe that’s not enough to condemn a person, especially on celluloid. The real crime is that the female lead, in a script already showing itself capable of full-fledged male characters, never becomes more than a one-dimensional Barbie. Not once is Crystal given enough screen time, in or out of lingerie, to play a real scene. The mystery in this movie is not, “Will the greedy people get away with their crimes?” — but, “Why did Kudrow’s agent let her play this awful part?” Was director Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle) sleeping through the story sessions on Kudrow’s character? Seems so. But that failure is only a fraction of Lucky Numbers’ problem. More egregious is its message of moral irresponsibility. Now, most of us love cinema crooks. We cheer the felons through their obstacles, and we really want them to get away with it. All good, clean, vicarious fantasy. But Lucky Numbers takes a reprehensible twist. As their situation gets more complicated, two of our “heroes” commit murder. Not excusable “oops, sorry” plot eliminations — these are vicious, nasty killings. Things aren’t so funny anymore. But no one grieves for the people offed. And no one’s ever brought to justice for killing them. In fact, in the blithe moral vacuum of Lucky Numbers, the two bad guys end up happily ever after — and very rich. But Crystal — who was no more evil, initially, than her male cohorts — how does she fare? Alas, she’s trapped forever in celluloid cliches. Crystal ends up as a go-go dancer wearing a costume of painted lotto balls.

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