In the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, Zac Efron plays an ex-Marine who falls for a woman appearing in a photo (Wayland’s Taylor Schilling) he credits with saving his life in Iraq.
When you’re dealing with a dog as big and mangy as “The Lucky One,” it’s somehow fitting that it be set in a rundown kennel. Here, the vaunted initials AKC aren’t so much an acronym for the American Kennel Club, as they are a code for Another King-sized Crapfest courtesy of literature’s favorite mutt, Nicholas Sparks.
Yes, ol’ Sparky is at it again, dropping another massive load directly in the path of moviegoers. Me, I’m still scraping bits and pieces of it off my soul. And the stench! The EPA should have limits on objects that reek as badly as Sparky’s latest pile of doo about an ex-Marine who WALKS! from Colorado to Louisiana in search of the woman whose picture he’s convinced saved his life in Iraq. If only I’d found a similar photo of a gorgeous gal outside the theater; then, too, I would have been spared from an improvised explosive device large enough to kill all hope of ever liking Zac Efron.
He’s the headliner of this burned-out shell of a melodrama in which “acting” becomes synonymous with a WMD. How bad is this Zac attack? Well, let’s just say I’m convinced that director Scott Hicks (the Oscar-winning “Shine”) opted to render his buff-and-scuffy (dig that 5 o’clock shadow) star the strong silent type just to keep Efron from opening his mouth. On the rare occasion when he does speak, it’s time to hide the women and girls, who, ironically, are the target audience for this romantic schlock.
True, Zac looks dreamy, especially when he strips down to his saggy, baggy under shorts. But the charisma he displayed in his song-and-dance hits, “Hairspray” and “High School Musical,” remains far from view; lending credence to those, like me, who believe drama is just not his thing. That goes double for his pretty – but pretty bad – costar, Taylor Schilling, who isn’t worth a six-pence as his alleged love goddess. The Wayland native certainly knows how to work a pair of short shorts, but ask her to display the agony of a young woman who has lost both her parents and only sibling to tragedy, and suddenly she looks pretty plain.
It also doesn’t help that she and Efron have zero chemistry, which makes their slow-burn romantic machinations seem all the more labored. But they’re not nearly as arduous as all of the familiar Sparks-isms, from the snobby rich folks threatening to keep Efron’s Logan and Schilling’s Beth apart, to the host of people and objects in need of fixing, to the predictable death of a major character. Watch out for that falling tree house! There’s also a flash flood, of course, but it has nothing to do with the tears “The Lucky One” works overtime trying to set flowing. Swept up in the aftermath are a couple of legitimate actors in Blythe Danner as Beth’s impossibly sweet granny, and “Mad Men’s” Jay R. Ferguson as Beth’s belligerent ex-husband and father to her mop-topped Hollywood-kid son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart).
Speaking of the brat, turns out he is quite the whiz at chess, raising the film’s level of smarminess past the tolerance of even the least-acute diabetic. But, in a way, the kid’s checkered history makes him a perfect metaphor for a movie that flippantly treats its audience like a pawn – if not a pile of dog dirt.
THE LUCKY ONE (PG-13 for some sexuality and violence.) Cast includes Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling and Blythe Danner. Directed by Scott Hicks. 1.5 stars out of 4.