Nicholas Sparks, most famously known as the author who created the source novel for the blockbuster tearjerker "The Notebook," "Dear John" and others, is returning to the big screens with "The Lucky One" this weekend. And, much like his previous offerings, this one delivers the similarly bland, vanilla romance security blanket moviegoers have come to expect from him.
In it, U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) finds a photograph of a girl in the midst of his third tour of duty in Iraq. After surviving a series of near-fatal events, he credits this anonymous girl with keeping him safe and vows to find and thank her. He finally finds the girl, Beth (Taylor Schilling) and takes a job at her small-town kennel, building on their relationship as coworkers to win her over.
It sounds nice, but it's nothing but an hour and a half of concentrated cliches and inspirational messages. Efron never falters in his position as the honorable hero. Schilling works well as the whimsical object of his affection, but even with a domineering ex-husband to contend with, her character lacks conviction.
The most entertaining parts of the movie, for me, were Blythe Danner as Beth's wise and sassy grandmother and Riley Thomas Stewart as Beth's precocious son. Yes, these are absolutely still cliches to the tee, but both actors infuse them with genuine energy that helps carry their scenes, but unfortunately their roles aren't substantial enough to give them the opportunity to save the movie altogether.
What bothers me most about "The Lucky One" is not the contrived script and predictable, one-dimensional characters, but the idea that this movie plays out like a parallel universe of Sparks' other stories. It's a perfect example of a cookie-cutter formula, and yet, the formula works (as far as the box office is concerned).
"The Lucky One" is completely transparent but, in a way, plays its part perfectly. It's a cotton candy flick – simple, sweet and mostly empty space devoid of any substance. It's not wholly unlikable, but it could make you sick depending on how you tend to stomach the stuff.
Nevertheless, "The Lucky One" does manage to have one fortuitous advantage: it's opening on a truly unremarkable weekend as far as movie releases are concerned, which might net it an extra couple hundred thousand – if it really lives up to its name.
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