Film review: The Lucky One

posted at 8:01 am on April 21, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

After surviving an ambush in a night raid in Iraq, a Marine sergeant discovers a picture of a young woman lying on the ground, with the words “Keep Safe” on the back. When he can’t locate the owner, he keeps it as a good luck charm, and once back home, decides to find the young woman to give his thanks. When he finds her, the Marine ends up in the middle of a broken family struggling with its own grief. Will he find himself and help bring healing to the woman who helped him survive Iraq?

The Lucky One is somewhat entertaining but a rather formulaic film. Logan, the Marine back from the war, suffers from guilt and perhaps some PTSD, and goes on walkabout to find the woman in the picture.  After traveling on foot from Colorado to Louisiana to find Beth — a task that seems incredibly easy, given the lack of clues in the photo — he then somehow can’t bring himself to explain why he’s there.  That sets up one of the obvious conflicts in the film, but we have plenty of other familiar tropes as well.  We have the deputy sheriff who dislikes the drifting veteran, especially with his proximity to his ex-wife Beth, as well as the powerful local former in-laws that more or less keep Beth in line when it comes to her son Ben. Some of these cliches soften throughout the film, but there are few surprises, and it unfolds pretty much as anyone who has seen these kinds of romantic dramas would expect.

Still, it’s not too bad even for its predictability, mainly due to the efforts of the cast.  Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling hit all the right notes as the two leads, and Blythe Danner lends a warm touch as Beth’s slightly eccentric grandmother.  Efron’s stoicism rings true, even if at a couple of junctures the film starts to get a First Blood or Billy Jack vibe.  Riley Thomas Stewart’s Ben felt like the most natural character on the screen. Jay R. Ferguson isn’t given much humanity as the deputy/ex-husband, and other than Adam LeFevre’s small role as the ex-father-in-law/judge, the other characters are straight out of stock.

Unfortunately, the performances don’t really overcome an unoriginal script and too many sun-dappled montage sequences.  It’s not bad, but it’s nothing special.

The Lucky One is rated PG-13, which is a little surprising considering some of the violence in the beginning and some sexual content (no nudity). It’s not really a film that will interest children and young teens, and it’s not appropriate for that audience, either.


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sounds okay, on a sort of related note I watched the movie The Warrior last night, it was phenomenal.

rob verdi on April 21, 2012 at 8:09 AM

too many sun-dappled montage sequences

begging the age-old question, what’s the precise correct number of sun-dappled montage sequences. Answer: 1.732.

SoRight on April 21, 2012 at 8:10 AM

the book was good. But it did seem easy to find this woman while walking around the country with dog in tow.

kelley in virginia on April 21, 2012 at 8:19 AM

Zac Efron as a Marine? Getouttahere!

EnglishRogue on April 21, 2012 at 8:56 AM

The Lucky One is rated PG-13, which is a little surprising considering some of the violence in the beginning and some sexual content (no nudity). It’s not really a film that will interest children and young teens, and it’s not appropriate for that audience, either.

According to these ratings

http://www.pluggedin.com/movies.aspx

all three new PG-13 releases are full of sexual situations.

Take the kids to see Oscar the chimp.

itsnotaboutme on April 21, 2012 at 9:03 AM

PG-13 now means pawing & groping?

itsnotaboutme on April 21, 2012 at 9:04 AM

The Lucky One is rated PG-13, which is a little surprising considering some of the violence in the beginning and some sexual content (no nudity).

Too bad. With some Taylor Schilling nudity, I could suffer through a few too many sun-dappled montage sequences and the rest of the flick.

TXUS on April 21, 2012 at 9:24 AM

I have already watched the trailer. It’s not all that compelling either.

I am waiting for Dark Shadows.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM

John Cusack in “The Raven” is coming out April 27th.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:29 AM

This is more interesting then trying to convince people Efron could play a marine. My niece’s demo reel :)

If you get a chance check out “The Other Side of Nerds”

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM

I am waiting for Dark Shadows.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM

As one of those kids who bicycled home from school at breakneck speed to catch Dark Shadows when I was a kid, the only reason I’m going is that Jonathan Frid (RIP) and three other former castmates have cameos. Depp has turned it into a comedy and I think that’s almost heresy. Again, this from someone who never missed the show and sat through the originial movie House of Dark Shadows (1970) 3 straight times.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 9:42 AM

I can’t even begin to imagine sitting though a whole movie’s worth of this. It only took a minute and nine seconds of the trailer to blow the needle off the cliche meter. Gag me.

Dopenstrange on April 21, 2012 at 9:42 AM

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Same here, Tim Burton is giving Dark Shadow’s his signature treatment. The thing is he didn’t have to change it into a comedy, it worked fine in the genre it was intended “Horror”

It’s sad that Jonathan Frid passed away he was 87 years old, last Friday, there is a post up on Huffington Post.

I am Levon Helm’s fan too and he recently died at 71 years of age. One of my favorite Levon Helm’s movie moments HERE from Shooter.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Through no fault of Zac Efron when I see him on screen I can only think Disney….which is fine, but I’m not a 15 year old girl….do they go to movies about post war Iraq?

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:53 AM

Saw this last night with a lady friend. Calling it formulaic and predictable might be an understatement. We were outright laughing at many of the scenes and making shockingly accurate guesses as to what was going to happen next.

The most telling part was during the climactic slow motion run scene that was supposed to be the romantic finale someone in the theater made a really loud fart noise. Instead of people being upset they all laughed in unison. Then half the theater got up and left before the last scene finished playing.

bj1126 on April 21, 2012 at 10:07 AM

It’s sad that Jonathan Frid passed away he was 87 years old, last Friday, there is a post up on Huffington Post.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:51 AM

I don’t know about you, but with the deaths of Dick Clark and especially “Barnabas”, I’ve been feeling pretty old lately. I can remember tiny details from that show but then I realize it was literally decades ago. Great clip on Levon too.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

The entertainment industry would lead you to believe there is nothing new under the sun. Makes you wonder why history repeats itself over and over.

Cindy Munford on April 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Through no fault of Zac Efron when I see him on screen I can only think Disney….which is fine, but I’m not a 15 year old girl….do they go to movies about post war Iraq?

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 9:53 AM

Only time will tell if he’ll be able to pull a Kurt Russell and get rid of the Disney image.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 10:16 AM

*GAG*

catmman on April 21, 2012 at 10:21 AM

I don’t know about you, but with the deaths of Dick Clark and especially “Barnabas”, I’ve been feeling pretty old lately. I can remember tiny details from that show but then I realize it was literally decades ago. Great clip on Levon too.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

I think it’s because we are the generation coming of age, the tail end of the baby boomers, and the generations before us that influenced us are passing away…but look at the folks we are discussing, none of them are negative, and I would argue all three were consummate entertainers – they all knew their craft.

When people refer to baby boomers, they always treat it like a monolithic block the range is 1946-1964, but we came of age in different decades, the oldest baby boomers came of age in the 60s. Obama is a baby boomer born in 1961, but he didn’t come of age in the 60s, he was 21 in in 1982.

I keep complaining about the calcification in the U.S. Senate we have two U.S. Senators that are 87 and 88 still serving, that means they were born in the mid 1920s...we have generation gaps not being addressed in our current “representative” government….this is 2012, I don’t want a bunch of people who think governing like FDR in the 1930s is the bees knees LOL!

I don’t get the audience- generation this “The Lucky One” is supposed to appeal to, who the movie makers are targeting? It’s just supposed to be a Zac Efron vehicle? They could have found him better material to transition his movie career from teen idol to young adult.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 10:31 AM

I saw a trailer for this a couple of nights ago and giggled like a schoolgirl at how formulaic it all looked.

Then I sat down and watched a copy of Take Shelter, so I suppose things only got better from there.

mintycrys on April 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM

I don’t get the audience- generation this “The Lucky One” is supposed to appeal to, who the movie makers are targeting? It’s just supposed to be a Zac Efron vehicle? They could have found him better material to transition his movie career from teen idol to young adult.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 10:31 AM

An example that comes to my mind is Ricky Schroeder going from The Champ and Silver Spoons to Lonesome Dove, even though it was a mini-series.

As far as the different coming of ages, you’re so right. My brother was born in 1950 and remembers vivid details of the day Kennedy was shot, i.e. what class he was in at school and the time, etc. I was almost 7 and only remember being sick from school that Friday and my mother watching the news on the old B&W t.v. But it’s really vague in my mind. Even though Obama is technically a boomer, he acts like a a member of the American Idol generation.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM

Chick flick. Saw one once. Had to pull out my DVD of “Dirty Dozen” just to maintain an equilibrium. It didn’t work.

kurtzz3 on April 21, 2012 at 11:16 AM

Sounds horrible.

aryeung on April 21, 2012 at 11:17 AM

The Lucky One is rated PG-13, which is a little surprising considering some of the violence in the beginning and some sexual content (no nudity).

Are you kidding me?! You should not be surprised at all. The MPAA has a notorious double standard when it comes to violence and sex. You could have scenes with bloody, gratuitous violence and still get a PG-13 rating, but if you show a female nipple or say the f-word twice? R.

YYZ on April 21, 2012 at 11:31 AM

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM

I too was little when Kennedy was assassinated …..I remember my grandmother closing the blinds, pulling the curtains, and covering mirrors…weird, it’s as if the death had been personal, and happened in our immediate family. That’s another custom from an older generation, that kids today wouldn’t understand – customs from generations past, how some folks used to grieve.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 11:32 AM

OMG, now Ed is reviewing flix based on Nicholas Sparks books. Even my 25 year old daughter no longer reads Sparks.

xkaydet65 on April 21, 2012 at 11:50 AM

That was a lot of words to say “Unremarkable dreck,” Ed.

Jazz on April 21, 2012 at 12:17 PM

That’s another custom from an older generation, that kids today wouldn’t understand – customs from generations past.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 11:32 AM

And sadly, the disintegration of alot of those customs and traditions is contributing to turning this country into a country I barely recognize. It’s hard to explain to younger generations what things used to be like. Of course race and gender discrimination were prevalent which is the darker side of “the good old days”, but there was so much that made America, America. Do you ever see kids playing kickball or dodgeball in the streets anymore after school? Or kids at a pizza place after a Friday night high school football game? I see kids not even open doors for elderly people or pregnant women. And God forbid, if you ever hear a yes ma’am or yes sir anymore. I was at Petco the other day and saw an elderly man wearing a Navy WWII veteran cap who was with his wife. He must have been about 90. I was behind them when they checked out, but out in the parking lot, I went up to him and said that I wanted to shake his hand to say thank you for saving my generation. He had been at Okinawa and I told him how my late dad and his 3 brothers were all WWII vets. He hugged me and I said in his ear that there are still alot of Americans that will never forget his sacrifice. We were both a little misty eyed.

Note to Ed: I didn’t mean to hijack the thread, but I’ve been waxing nostalgic since Jonathan Frid passed away.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 12:20

Unfortunately, it isn’t just kids who won’t open a door for elderly or pregnant people. I’ll never forget when I was hugely pregnant with my son who is now 11; a man who had to be 40-45 let me hold the door while he walked through. Awful. Not only that but he didn’t even have the class to thank me. What a sorry excuse for a ‘man’. No wonder so few young people have manners, but much of it can be laid squarely at the feet of ‘feminists’. I still dont think there is any excuse for a man to behave that way. I will always remember him as a first class loser who shamed his parents. At any rate, my 11 year old is expected to hold the door for old people and women, though it really bugs me when older boys and non elderly men let him keep holding the door. Take your turn at being a gentleman! Ugh. / ot rant that chivalry is all but dead and our culture stinks.

pannw on April 21, 2012 at 2:27 PM

pannw on April 21, 2012 at 2:27 PM

I had to take a dumb-@$$ sociology class in college about 10 years ago, and I clearly remember the holier-than-thou lesbian professor informing the male students that by holding the door for women they were being sexist, because they were implying that a woman couldn’t open a door for themselves.

(This was the same idiot who was offended that she got weird looks from people when she walked into a women’s bathroom, just because she looked like, well, a dood.)

salmonczar on April 21, 2012 at 2:49 PM

We saw the trailer for this before Act of Valor, and my husband snorted, calling it “girl porn.” It did look predictable, and it was obvious they were trying to throw a bone to all the girls watching Act of Valor. By the way, for Act of Valor, five weeks after its opening on a weekday night? The Omaha suburb theater was at least a third full, with people staying until the very end of the credits (and hardly any dry eyes at the conclusion of the movie).

pookysgirl on April 21, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Note to Ed: I didn’t mean to hijack the thread, but I’ve been waxing nostalgic since Jonathan Frid passed away.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM

I think it’s still inside the topic, the plot to this movie was about an Iraq war vet, and they do have something in common with other, War vets who came home changed after war.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM

As far as the different coming of ages, you’re so right. My brother was born in 1950 and remembers vivid details of the day Kennedy was shot, i.e. what class he was in at school and the time, etc. I was almost 7 and only remember being sick from school that Friday and my mother watching the news on the old B&W t.v. But it’s really vague in my mind. Even though Obama is technically a boomer, he acts like a a member of the American Idol generation.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM

I was almost four when Kenney died. I remember my mom watching the funeral on television and crying. I asked her if she knew him and she just said, he was so young, so young.

Now, Dark Shadows… Yeah, I don’t remember it being slapstick either. That show creeped me out. I learned the negative side of peer pressure when all the kids in the neighborhood would gather to take a break from playing and watch it at someone’s house.

I watched a couple of episodes and figured out how to fake too tired or lie that I had something else to do rather than watch it. I know my neighborhood cred was damaged due to that stupid show, lol.

Fallon on April 21, 2012 at 3:46 PM

Oh, and I have no desire to watch Zac Efron. I’m gonna win a date with Looney and Clooney. Why are the pretty ones so stupid?

Fallon on April 21, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Apparently, the last of the writers died in the 1970′s.

Movies and TV have been hit hardest by the lack of original content ever since.

landlines on April 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Not only does Efron come off as a walking STD, he can’t act. He ruined 17 Again – I felt sorry for Leslie Mann having to act opposite him.

mrsknightley on April 21, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Note to Ed: I didn’t mean to hijack the thread, but I’ve been waxing nostalgic since Jonathan Frid passed away.

TxAnn56 on April 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM

I think it’s still inside the topic, the plot to this movie was about an Iraq war vet, and they do have something in common with other, War vets who came home changed after war.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Fine by me. I consider these to be open to broader entertainment questions and debate. That’s part of what I’m doing with the reviews.

Ed Morrissey on April 21, 2012 at 7:14 PM

The Lucky One is somewhat entertaining but a rather formulaic film.

Nicholas Sparks only does formula. You start reading or watching anything with his name attached to it knowing that the cough that “is nothing” really is something. He is to literature what Thomas Kinkade was to fine art. In other words- “commercial.” Mass appeal with little talent.

Yes, Sparks writes a compelling enough drama. And they get tweener heart throb Efron to play the lead in much the same way Ryan Gosling anchored The Notebook. But that doesn’t make it anything but bankable.

Happy Nomad on April 21, 2012 at 9:15 PM

the plot to this movie was about an Iraq war vet, and they do have something in common with other, War vets who came home changed after war.

Dr Evil on April 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM

The returning soldier is a universal theme. The Deer Hunter and The Best Years of Our Lives are better representations of that theme than a commercial film that depicts the returning soldier as a stalker.

Happy Nomad on April 21, 2012 at 9:25 PM