The most fortunate thing about The Lucky One is that despite a plot hole so big it could generate its own gravity field, it’s still not a bad movie. But maybe I’m a prisoner of my gender. Adapted from a novel by the infamous sentimentalist Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Dear John, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Last Song), the film stars Zac Efron as an emotionally fragile Marine who’s great with dogs and kids and so handsome he’s almost painful to look at. If this movie isn’t girl porn, I don’t know what is.
Efron, once the star of Disney’s High School Musical films, has grown up to be a versatile actor — and a fine poster boy for Men’s Health magazine, for that matter. He can carry a comedy with ease (17 Again), emerge distinctive and unscathed from a subpar ensemble piece (New Year’s Eve) and bring pathos to a teen melodrama (Charlie St. Cloud). In The Lucky One, he cuts his adult romantic chops successfully by playing Logan, a quiet but thoughtful Marine who has survived three tours of duty in Iraq. Logan believes he owes his longevity to a good luck charm he found amid the rubble after a night raid gone wrong. He picked up a photo of a pretty blond woman with the words “Keep safe” written on the back and managed to come home in one piece when many of his comrades didn’t.
Back home, with nowhere to go, he and his gorgeous German shepherd Zeus walk from Colorado to Louisiana so that he can meet the woman and thank her. The script by Will Fetters (Remember Me) offers no explanation on how Logan zeroes in on the small town where she lives; maybe fate had a hand in directing him, or maybe the answer got lost in the editing process. In any case, Logan magically strides right to the boarding kennel run by Beth (Taylor Schilling), a divorced mom with a smart little son (Riley Thomas Stewart), a dead soldier brother, a wise and warm grandma (the excellent Blythe Danner) and a psychologically abusive cop ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson of Mad Men, effectively playing a more dangerous type of jerk here). A tongue-tied Logan finds himself unable to explain what he’s doing there, so instead he takes a conveniently offered job at the kennel, which is in dire need of a handyman/dog walker. He doesn’t have anything pressing to do, after all, and who wouldn’t want to be close to the best luck he’s ever had?
The unnecessary lie that thwarts true love is a tired device — it isn’t even vital to the plot in this case; the blossoming love between two wary people is interesting enough to carry a movie — but in the fine performances of the cast lies the possibility of forgiveness. Director Scott Hicks (Shine, No Reservations, Snow Falling on Cedars) casts a golden glow over most of the movie, mimicking the swell of emotion inside Logan whenever he’s with Beth. The Lucky One slips into convenient melodrama in its final act, which comes as no surprise considering Sparks wrote the source material, but the movie carries a surprising depth in addition to its foolishness. Kind of like Logan. Kind of like all of us.
Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson, Riley Thomas Stewart.
Director: Scott Hicks.
Screenwriter: Will Fetters. Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.
Producers: Denise Di Novi, Kevin McCormick.
A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 101 minutes. Some sexuality, violence. Opens Friday April 20 at area theaters.