Film review: The Lucky One

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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