Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, The Last Song, Dear John) is a name that has become synonymous with silly, soppy, sappy Kleenex endorsed love stories. Most savvy directors are able to exploit Sparks’ romantic novel formulas into big blockbuster hits by simply adding a few good-looking leads to the mix. Scott Hicks does the same. All of Sparks’ trademarks are present in The Lucky One – the soulful gentleman, the courageous independent woman, scenic Southern U.S.A locations, the death of a loved one and the war backstory. And just as it completes the checklist, we realize that the film is nothing more than a tsunami of old-fashioned love story clichés. Husbands, boyfriends, friendzone buddies beware!
There are two bankable guarantees that The Lucky One will find a large female audience; the soppy story and hunky Zach Efron. It’s highly unusual that a male lead ever looks better than the female, but such is the case here. The High School Musical star, now in his mid-twenties, has been trying everything possible to get rid of his teen boy image, favouring more serious adult roles. The Lucky One doesn’t do him any favours, but allows him the space to explore a more sombre character.
Efron stars as Logan Thibault, a U.S. marine serving abroad in Iraq. In the wake of an intense firefight he discovers a picture of a beautiful blonde woman lying in the dust nearby. He decides to hold onto the photograph and credits it with saving his life on countless occasions. After returning from war, and struggling to fit back into society, Logan decides to track down the woman. With his dog by his side, he travels across country in search of Beth (Taylor Schilling), a young divorcee who is running kennels with her mother (Blythe Danner). When Logan finally finds her, she offers him a job. He accepts, unable to tell her the full truth about his arrival. Soon he charms his way into the hearts of Beth and her son, much to the disapproval of Beth’s bully ex-husband.
No points for guessing the outcome here. The Lucky One is mindless predictable romantic entertainment targeted at hopeless romantics. If it’s schmaltz you’re after, look no further.