DVD Release Date: August 28, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: April 20, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for some sexuality and violence)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Adaptation
Run Time: 101 min.
Director: Scott Hicks
Actors: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson, Adam LeFevre

The one original moment in The Lucky One, an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, comes late in the movie, when Ellie (Blythe Danner, Little Fockers) gives a piece of advice to her granddaughter Beth (Taylor Schilling).

After listening to Beth use her son from a previous marriage as an excuse not to pursue a relationship with Logan Thibault (Zac Efron, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax), Ellie splashes cold water on Beth’s view of putting her child before everything else. “Sacrificing everything in our life for our children—it’s not selfless, it’s ridiculous,” Ellie says.

The comment is so jarring, so against the grain of contemporary parenting trends, that it stands out amid a lukewarm, predictable and cliché-ridden story. Other than that moment, The Lucky One delivers exactly zero surprises.

The story revolves around Logan, a Marine sergeant back in the United States who’s trying to track down a woman (Beth) from a photograph he’s brought home from the war zone. He makes his way across several states to find her running a kennel in Louisiana. To Beth, Logan is just a drifter in search of work, and she’s eager to have him fill an opening at the kennel.

A relationship begins to develop between Logan and Beth, but dramatic tension is missing from the story. So Sparks (and screenwriter Will Fetters) bring in Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), the town’s sheriff, Beth’s ex and the father of her young son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). A control freak, Keith is soon harassing Logan and frightening Beth into staying away from the new guy in town. It’s a sign of the movie’s utter predictability that, when Beth confronts Keith at last and says she’s finally figured out what he’s up to, the audience will see the angle several steps (and several minutes of screen time) ahead of her.

The Lucky One provides a potential breakout role for Efron, known for the relatively squeaky-clean High School Musical series, but the actor doesn’t show much of his soul in the film. Sure, he’s a good-looking guy (although his character’s beard doesn’t age the actor too far beyond his younger High School Musical character), and a large portion of the audience will be more than happy to stare at Efron on a big screen for 101 minutes. But his performance falls somewhere between brooding and doe-eyed—it flickers but never smolders. It’s Schilling, as Beth, who shows more shades—and more promise—than her male counterpart. As an actor, Schilling seems more comfortable in her own skin than does Efron.