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The Globe and Mail

The Lucky One: A soldier survives the war but not the schmaltz

Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron in a scene from "The Lucky One"

Alan Markfield/AP/Warner Bros.

1.5 out of 4 stars


Another Nicholas Sparks novel, another cinematic brush with insulin shock.

Sweet doesn't begin to do this goop justice. Saccharine fails too, and nothing in the thesaurus seems remotely up to the job. Frankly, I'm sitting here in High Adjective Alert, with nary a saviour in sight.

For now, let's concede defeat and underline the obvious. However Sparks delivers his message – in a bottle, or a notebook, or, in this case, a dog-eared photograph – the meaning never varies: Fate may be fickle but it's ultimately kind; destiny is our daddy and he's a pretty good guy; love occasionally stoops but only to conquer. Aren't you, aren't I, ain't the big wide wonderful world lucky.

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Certainly, that snapshot is quick to do its work. On a tour in Iraq, Logan the brave Marine (Zac Efron, with stubble) spots something amid the rubble and stops to pick it up, a delay that saves him from the bomb blast that kills his buddy.

The photo shows a pretty girl posed beside a distinctive lighthouse and, back home Stateside, Logan tracks down his unknown beauty even before the opening credits have finished their roll. That's when she walks into the movie wearing a blouse of snowy white and a backlit halo of pure amber – an angel by any name, but Beth will have to do.

Anyway, Beth (Taylor Schilling, without stubble) has no living parents but a very wise granny, a tow-headed cutie for a son, a rather brutish ex-husband, and a kennel. That too is a lucky thing, the kennel, since it gives director Scott Hicks another excuse to deploy the only trick in his bag. Yep, he backlights the dogs too, bathing them in the same amber glow – works wonders for the German shepherd, but seems wasted on the golden lab.

With the talisman still in his wallet, Logan takes a job at the place, and wastes no time fixing broken things. You know, the usual stuff – roofs, tractors, Beth's heart. A man of many parts, he also plays the piano. The cute kid plays the violin. Expect a duet.

Meanwhile, back on the broken-heart front, the first kiss is clumsy, the second better, and the consummation is devoutly to be wished. Expect more amber.

Not that the film rushes through these crucial plot points. On the contrary, it takes frequent breaks to do what people who live in big, wide, wonderful movie worlds delight in doing – pausing for a happy montage scored to a happier pop tune.

As for unhappiness, thy name is that brutish ex-hubby, a cop and a bully (sorry if that's redundant) with a rich daddy who's not nearly as nice as destiny – he's a politician.

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But it hardly matters. Happily, unhappiness proves a minor complication at worst and has the good grace to exit stage left when the script, growing uncharacteristically impatient with those lyrical montages, forges ahead to a lyrical climax burnished with more of that lyrical light. Just had an adjectival thought: Is sneerical a word?

Speaking of Zac Efron, the lad is obviously trying to step up in dramatic class here and punch above his weight. But even that stubble doesn't help.

However, his wooden mug saves him on one perilous occasion, when he's actually required to say to his angel: "You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute." A better actor would have refused that line; a lesser mortal would have choked on it. Give Zac his due – he does neither.

Still, in the last analysis, some hope can be found in the picture's first words: "The smallest thing can change your life." The Lucky One is a very small thing – personally, I await my life transformation. Not to mention that adjective.

The Lucky One

  • Directed by Scott Hicks
  • Written by Will Fetters
  • Starring Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling
  • Classification: PG
  • 1.5 stars

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