Let me start off this review by saying that I am not a Nicholas Sparks fan. The Notebook made me want to puke, I thought A Walk to Remember was trying way too hard, and if they hadn’t changed the ending of Dear John for the film version I may have burned down the theater. I’m not sure what possessed me to read The Lucky One or to watch the film version (it may have started with Z and ended in ‘Ack Efron’) because it sounds no different than any of his other sapfests.
A Marine finds a lucky picture of a woman in Iraq and returns home to thank her for saving his life but ends up falling for her instead.
All love stories are sapfests to some extent, but what sets Nicholas Sparks sapfests apart from the herd is the fact that he invariably shoehorns in a bunch of secondary characters who bring about tragedy that tears the main characters apart at the end in an irritating attempt to slap tears from the faces of his readers. However, The Lucky One is different, and that’s why I like it.
That’s not to say The Lucky One doesn’t have secondary characters waiting in the wings to shoehorn in some tragedy. Beth (Taylor Schilling) has a number of complicating factors in her life. She lives with her adorable young son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) who gets bullied in school and her quirky mom Ellie (Blythe Danner) who’s already had one stroke. Both of them are ripe for tragic plucking.
If you need me, I’ll be in the barn, where I may or may not be having another stroke.
She’s also got a dead Marine brother who practically wears a label identifying him as a wrench that could be thrown between her and Logan (Zac Efron), the sexy ex-Marine hobo who mysteriously turns up looking for a job at her dog kennel.
BETH: Hey there, stranger! Did you walk all the way across
the country just to find me or did you happen to see a help wanted
sign after arriving in town for a completely unrelated reason?
LOGAN: Um… the second one?
And oh, we can’t forget Beth’s bastard ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), who tries too hard to make Ben “normal,” hates Logan with a fiery passion, and gets away with threatening people because he’s on the police force in a small town where his father is the mayor.
KEITH: “I’ve seen stalkers, Beth.”
ME: Were you looking in the mirror at the time?
Luckily for us, however, Nicholas Sparks apparently experienced a brain fart he wrote his trademark BIG TRAGIC CLIMAX for The Lucky One. Not only is it almost completely unrelated to the story, but it also misses the ‘A’ plot (the love story) entirely and strikes down what is at best a ‘C’ plot. For those of you who don’t speak writer, this means a part of the storyline that is no higher than third in overall importance is the one that ends in tragedy. And I’m fine with that.
All the emoting, none of the unbridled audience rage.
This movie also marked a turning point for me in that I’m finally able to see Zac Efron as a grown-up. They tried several things to make him seem less like a twelve year old. They gave him scruffy facial hair:
Look everyone: he’s old enough to shave!
Oh my tragic past, etc.
Why yes, I do have more life experience than you. Thank you for asking.
That’s a man back right there, or I am a zebra striped wombat.
So I guess I can now man up (woman up?) and admit that I like Zac Efron without feeling embarrassed about it. Sure, his delivery’s a little off at times (at one point his threat sounded more like a question) but he had the body language down pat, and moreover: he’s got potential. Maybe with a few more movies, we can all forget about the horrid debacle that was High School Musical. For now, though, let’s all show the new grown-up Zac our support by seeing The Lucky One. It’s actually pretty good.