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Sparks' Lucky One Never Smolders

Sparks' <i>Lucky One</i> Never Smolders

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.

The Lucky One takes a few swings at the idea that life is not entirely within our control. The dialogue suggests that there’s a reason some things happen—even things that are difficult to understand. The story makes no specific biblical application of that point, but it does include a few scenes that involve Beth’s local Congregational church. The film also includes a couple of extended scenes of PG-13 sex. (That the two people might marry before sleeping with each other is never discussed.)

It’s all a bit pat—more "Hallmark Hall of Fame" than big-screen worthy drama. Some viewers will appreciate the familiarity and predictability of the story—who doesn’t enjoy a rerun of a favorite television show? But those looking for something deeper than TV-movie-of-the-week storytelling will find the film marginal at best. By the time Logan, exasperated, asks another character, “Am I boring you?” the answer will be all too apparent.


  • Language/Profanity: “Hell”; “bull-hit”; “ass”; “s-it”; “da-n.”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Logan says he’ll have to have a few beers before he starts telling jokes, beer drinking in numerous scenes; a flask is shared.
  • Sex/Nudity: A young boy is shown in his underwear; passionate kissing leads to sex, with Beth straddling Logan on a chair, much caressing, hands sliding below clothes, removal of clothes, including a bra; a second love scene; characters are shown waking up in bed.
  • Violence/Crime: War violence, including explosions and gunfire; Logan chokes a young boy who tries to wake him up; a woman destroys a garden; discussion about the possibility of a friendly-fire incident; Keith abuses his authority as an officer of the law; Beth speculates that neighbors may think she beats her son; Beth says her parents died in a car accident when she was young; a gun is pointed at a man, but the armed man is disarmed; men risk their lives to lead a young boy to safety.
  • Marriage/Religion: Reference to a guardian angel; a woman explains that she got pregnant earlier in life and married the father, but the father never stopped dating; Beth is part of a local Congregational church; the church has a plant sale, and we see hymn-singing and instrumental performances at church; Keith is violent toward Beth and talks about “making a man” of their young son; Keith threatens to take custody of his and Beth’s son; a character is asked, “Do you think life has a plan for you?”; a comparison between finding a picture in a war zone to finding “an angel in hell”; Beth’s grandmother says Logan found the picture of Beth for a reason; a character says everyone has their own destiny, but not everyone chooses to follow it; Logan says the best part of performing at church is the forgiving audience.

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