The Lucky One
No one goes to a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel for stirring social commentary. They go to see Ryan Gosling/Channing Tatum/now Zac Efron fight for his country and sensitively woo a lady while occasionally doffing his shirt. (Liam Hemsworth is immediately disqualified due to his involvement with Miley Cyrus. Sorry, Liam.) In these respects, “The Lucky One” doesn’t disappoint. Though the story lags more than “The Notebook” and “Dear John,” there are still a few genuinely touching moments — and plenty of gratuitous ab shots to go around.
Zac Efron, and the 17 pounds of muscle he reportedly packed on for the role, play strong but silent Marine sergeant Logan. On his third tour of duty, Logan finds a photograph of a beautiful blonde woman — and 30 seconds later narrowly escapes death. Eight months later, Logan sets out to find the woman in the photograph: Beth (Taylor Schilling) a schoolteacher turned dog trainer who’s keeping an eye on her grandmother (Blythe Danner) while raising her adorable scamp of a son (Riley Thomas Stewart). Of course, nothing’s explained until it’s almost too late, Logan’s PTSD is magically cured after working with dogs for an hour and Beth’s ex (Jay R. Ferguson) is a Southern sheriff version of Snidely Whiplash. I’ll let you guess whether these two crazy kids make it after all.
Efron’s genuine star quality, first spotted in the “High School Musical” franchise, seems to be transitioning well into adulthood. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much to work with when it comes to his character. Unlike the moody, feisty Noah of “The Notebook” or the tortured military man of “Dear John,” Logan never reveals much at all. Efron does what he can, emoting nicely without overacting and slinging large bags of dog food like he’s born to it, but not even Olivier could transform Logan into anything but a very attractive dud.
Schilling and Danner are almost nonentities, because who really goes to a Nicholas Sparks movie for the female characters? (Sassy Allie in “The Notebook” excepted.) Stewart isn’t too terribly irritating as Beth’s young son — quite a feat for a mop-topped child actor. And Ferguson (excellent as Stan on “Mad Men”) alternates between comic villain and truly creepy threat.
All in all, “The Lucky One” is enjoyable. There is soft focus, a lake, pretty dogs and even prettier people. Finally, Zac Efron looks really good. Sometimes, that’s all you need to buy a ticket.