Directed By Scott Hicks
Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart and Jay R. Ferguson
Author Nicholas Sparks might’ve single-handedly driven Kleenex sales through the roof with tearjerker romance The Notebook, but it’s hard not to spot that the writer has just been rewriting the same book over and over. Whether it’s The Notebook, Dear John or A Walk To Remember, if you’ve read one of them or caught the movie, you’ve pretty much seen all of them. The same’s true of The Lucky One, but while it follows Sparks’ patented melodramatic love story formula to a tee and you’ll instantly know every beat of the story 10 minutes in, it’s an enjoyable romantic drama bolstered by strong, likeable performances and some dynamite chemistry between its leads.
25-year old U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) is serving his third tour in Iraq. On the morning following a night raid ambush, he spots a photograph of a beautiful young blonde woman in the desert rubble and wanders over to retrieve it, stepping out of the blast range of a deadly mortar attack in the process. He keeps the unclaimed photo with him, only to have it serve as a lucky charm as he survives his tour unscathed. He pledges to find the woman in the photo and thank her, but when he tracks her down to her small-town training kennel for dogs, he fumbles trying to find the words to explain why he’s there and accepts a handyman job instead. The two inevitably grow closer and Logan strikes up a bond with her young son, but this being a Nicholas Sparks movie, there’s naturally plenty of melodrama and obstacles threatening to keep them apart.
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Of all the cheesy and preposterous nonsense that crops up in The Lucky One, it’s nice to say that High School Musical star Zac Efron playing a hardened marine isn’t one of them. The actor continues to step away from the slightly embarrassing stigma of being a former Disney moppet and carve out a career for himself as a solid, likeable performer. Here his character’s naturally cut from the Nicholas Sparks’ Prince Charming mould: Soulful, broody and slightly tortured but a soft-spoken, sweet and earnest gentleman. Efron handles both sides of the equation with ease, and while it’s second nature for the guy to be immensely charming, he pulls off the tortured, steely-eyed marine act, too; square-shouldered and buffed up (which will of course please the ladies when he inevitably takes his shirt off), he carries himself with a believable soldier’s presence and makes for an incredibly likeable lead.
By comparison, relative newcomer Taylor Schilling (Atlas Shrugged: Part I and short-lived TV medical drama Mercy) isn’t given much to work with, and her character Beth is little more than the beautiful, blonde damsel in distress. Still, she’s an incredibly capable actress and the two share oodles of smouldering chemistry, even if the gratuitous (albeit 12-rating friendly) sex scene montages quickly get silly. Blythe Danner (Meet The Parents) plays off the two well as Beth’s grandmother, too, stealing more than a few scenes.
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Yet while The Lucky One boasts an impressive cast on fine form and a tonne of chemistry between its romantic leads, it’s a shame there’s nothing more substantial for them to work with. The story is strictly by-the-numbers stuff, and even if you aren’t already familiar with Sparks’ repertoire, you’ll be eleven steps ahead of the rather flimsy script at every turn, quessing the entire romance’s trajectory the second Beth’s boorish cop ex steps into frame. You’ll also be stifling a giggle at some of the shamelessly shmaltzy dialogue, which sound like lines wisely torn out of early drafts of The Notebook and recycled here (“You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute” – that might make trips to the toilet quite awkward!).
It’s nothing remotely original and if you’ve seen any other Nicholas Sparks adaptations, you’re missing nothing by skipping this, but if you’re just after an enjoyable, familiar romance with a ‘happily ever after’, then The Lucky One hits all the bases. It’s a safe, serviceable and predictable love story, but a swoon-worthy lead, a likeable cast and plenty of steamy chemistry between Efron and Schilling make it perfect date night viewing/girly night in fodder.
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The film features some beautiful Louisiana locations, and the Blu-ray transfer looks sufficiently fantastic and detailed. It’s not a film that’ll put your surround system through its paces, but the couple of explosive early war scenes are well catered for and dialogue and music sound as clear and crisp as you’d expect.
Along with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English audio, there’s also English Descriptive Narration, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian tracks all in DD 5.1 and English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Russian and Swedish subtitles.
Special features-wise, the disc is pretty light, with the following extras:
The ‘Zac Efron Becomes a Marine’ mini-doc focuses on the actor’s preparation for the character with training footage and him talking with young marines to research for the role. Efron comes off as an incredibly charming and humble guy, so it’s an engaging, interesting little feature.
The Sparks featurette is less worthwhile, with the cast and crew going through the usual PR spiel, talking about the author and their characters. There’s lots of fawning over Sparks’ work and Efron interviews him a bit about what it was like seeing another of his books come to life, but there’s nothing substantial and no book vs. movie comparisons or anything. The Zac & Taylor feature is equally fluffy, but there’s a brief look at the duo’s early screen tests in there.
The Blu-ray set is a ‘Triple Play’ title, so there’s a handy bonus DVD copy of the movie and an UltraViolet digital copy code for you to cash in and watch the movie via Flixster on your Android, iPod, iPhone and iPad devices.
The Lucky One is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from 27th August 2012.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.