By Ben Markley
It’s undisputed that Nicholas Sparks is the champion of the modern chick flick, seeing as watching and crying over “The Notebook” has basically become a rite of passage for many teenage girls. Sure, he’s formulaic, but he makes us feel good (or, in the case of “A Walk to Remember” and “Dear John,” like total crap).
Sparks’ latest film, “The Lucky One,” begins with Logan (Zac Efron), a marine who finds a picture of a woman while on tour, which seems to keep him alive through many near-death situations. When he returns home, he sets out to find the woman in the picture.
What he finds is Beth (Taylor Schilling), a single mother living in the shadow of a nasty divorce from her possessive ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson). Inevitably, the star-crossed lovers fall for each other, and the conflict ensues.
The real protagonist, despite all the Efron hype, is actually Beth. The primary conflict is that she can’t have a relationship with Logan without risking losing custody of her son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) to her ex-husband.
It’s almost a shame because Efron really does give a much better performance than Schilling. Save a few cheesy lines, his portrayal of the strong, silent marine is pleasantly and completely divorced from the pretty boy melodrama of his Disney days, and it’s clear he’s grown up quite a bit since then.
Schilling, though her character is better written, gives a much shakier performance. Some of her most important moments of character development are fumbled by overacting or poor timing. She stays afloat, and the movie holds together, but she’s definitely one of the weaker components.
Arguably one of the best actors is ten-year-old Riley Thomas Stewart, who plays Beth’s son Ben. He takes a character that was supposed to capitalize on cuteness and turn it on its head. The way he delivers what would be otherwise obvious lines makes him more memorable than the romance itself.
The movie as a whole is funny and feel-good. It has everything: cute kid, sassy grandmother (Blythe Danner), good-looking protagonists and it’s swarming with smiley dogs (Beth runs a kennel). It’s not the story to end all stories, but it is entertaining, engaging and even somewhat memorable.
All that said, I’m still hesitant to say I really like this movie, mainly because of how it resolves. I won’t reveal how Sparks finds a happy ending through the climax, but I will say that what seems to be a cathartic twist of fate on its face is actually a somewhat dark trick on the part of the author to give us the ending we want. In spite of all its attempts to charm me, the story left me more troubled than touched when the credits started to roll.
“The Lucky One” is probably not going to be garnering any Oscar nominations, but it’s certainly enjoyable. It might not be worth eight bucks, but it’s worth putting on the short list for future movie nights.
I’ll end this with a disclaimer for any gentleman reading. I’ve read numerous reviews that talk about what a wonderful date movie “The Lucky One” is. Guys – yes, it is a warm, fuzzy romance that will get her feeling snugglier than usual, but understand, Efron’s character in the movie is perfect. Sensitive, good-looking, kid-friendly, good in bed, the whole Edward Cullen works.
If you come out of the movie and your girlfriend plays the why-can’t-you-be-more-like-that-guy card, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Contact Ben Markley, sports editor, at email@example.com.
“The Lucky One” premieres in theaters tonight. For showtimes near Overland Park, click here.