Nicholas Sparks is no longer a man. He is a genre.
Back in the days of Message in a Bottle A Walk to Remember and The Notebook the famed author's works were still being translated into romantic dramas. But with The Lucky One the literary auteur is in a class of his own — and woefully bordering on parody.
Right from the get go Sparks' stamp is bluntly apparent. Zac Efron plays Logan a marine who's constantly finding himself in danger. In the aftermath of one disastrous ambush Logan finds the dusty picture of a adorable blonde. He first attempts to find an owner to the portrait but to no avail. Quickly the nameless woman becomes his guardian angel a symbol of his survival during the war. When he eventually returns home from his tour Logan is tortured by PTSD and goes on a search for his photographic companion in hopes of making peace with the world.
That actually sounds like a pretty compelling adventure but The Lucky One brushes over Logan's search in favor of pairing him up with Beth (Taylor Schilling) by the last opening credit. How did he find her? Who cares — he made it to Louisiana and now the two can finally start falling love. The script by Remember Me screenwriter Will Fetters paints every character in Beth's life — her wily grandmother aggressive ex-husband too-smart-for-his-own-good son —with broad strokes favoring the cliche moments that will get us to the steamy make out scenes and professions of devotion. Beth hires Logan to work at her dog training company (cue: lots of adorable puppies!) where the two bond over their emotional issues. Fans of Sparks' previous work will be happy to know the romantic couple do a great deal of that bonding in the shower.
The Lucky One's simplicity would be easier to swallow if Efron was bringing anything to the table as Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum were able to do in their respective sappy outings. Logan is troubled but loyal which in Efron's acting book means stonefaced with mumbling cranked up to eleven. The shining light of Lucky One is the discovery of Schilling who turns the motivationless Beth into a spunky thoughtful female lead. Her banter with her grandma (a equally zesty Blythe Danner)is priceless and her love for her nitwit ten-year-old is the only reason you don't want to see the kid fall victim to the various plights he sees over the course of the film.
Sparks has been fortunate over the years to see a handful of savvy directors take on his material and director Scott Hicks (Oscar-nominated for 1997's Shine) does a decent job making The Lucky One pop with scenic illustrations. The southern backdrop is bright and squeaky clean perfectly emulating its romance novel roots. If only there wasn't a moment in Lucky One where everything wasn't picture perfect. The paint-by-numbers drama is lifeless — will they be able to overcome their obstacles for love?! Duh — and Efron's brick-worthy performance weighs it down even further. Even for a Nicholas Sparks movie The Lucky One is a dud — making the title something of a misnomer.