Lucky You Review

May 07, 2007 | 6:06am EDT

Huck Cheever (Bana) is all hustle and no commitment. He knows when to hold ’em and he knows when to fold ’em at the poker table. But with women Huck’s not ready to gamble with his affections. Then he meets Billie Offer (Barrymore). The singer’s cute honest and magnanimous—everything Huck isn’t. If he’s down to his last buck Huck won’t think twice about “borrowing” money from a girlfriend or pawning a pal’s digital camera. Naturally it’s love at first sight. Only Huck isn’t willing to stake everything to win Billie’s heart. Not when he’s taking his father L.C. Cheever (Duvall) down a peg or two. See the colorful L.C.’s made a fortune by being a prudent professional poker player. He taught a young Huck everything he knows except how to beat him at his own game. Now Huck—who loses his cool just as often as he loses to L.C.—wants to payback his father for putting his pursuit of five of a kind above his family. And no time is better than now what with both Cheevers set about to play in the World Series of Poker. Assuming of course Huck can make back the $10 000 entry fee he’s already lost to L.C. “You’re good ” a mesmerized pawn shop employee coos when Huck smooth talks her into paying more for his pal’s digital camera. But she could just as easily be talking about Bana. You wouldn’t want anything to do with Huck if it weren’t for Bana drawing you in with his undeniable charm. He makes Huck likeable without putting on a hard sell or trying to varnish over his rough edges. And that makes it easier to root for Huck to open up to Billie and to forgive L.C. for past mistakes. Most important Bana manages to match wits with the wily and surprisingly sympathetic Duvall during confrontations that are fraught with familial animosity. It’s actually a great deal of fun to watch them bait each other. On the other hand Barrymore brings nothing to the table. Director Curtis Hanson (Wonder Boys ) guided Kim Basinger to an Oscar in L.A. Confidential and he turned Eminem into an actor with 8 Mile. But he can’t work any miracles with Barrymore. Sure she radiates warmth but she’s unable to turn Billie into anything other than the inspiration for Huck’s redemption. You know what she feels in her heart but you have no idea what’s going through her mind. Barrymore’s clearly better off fooling around with Adam Sandler than fooling herself into thinking she can pull off a role that requires her to be more than sweet and bubbly. It's been a long wait for Lucky You which was originally going to open in December 2005 two months after the release of Hanson’s In Her Shoes. Now Lucky You opens against Spider-Man 3. Talk about being dealt a losing hand. Unlike most films that studios dump Lucky You isn’t a complete disaster. It’s thoroughly compelling as an examination of father-son dynamics but that’s due more to the interaction between Bana and Duvall than Eric Roth’s pedestrian screenplay. Too bad you simply do not believe an honest gal like Billie would want anything to do with a compulsive gambler like Huck. As for its insider look at the world of competitive card playing Lucky You is a loser. You’re out of luck if you don’t know what’s a flop or a flush. Hanson never finds an effective way to explain the game to the uninitiated. Those who do play Texas Hold 'Em may find themselves yawning when the cards are cut. Hanson stages each game as though the players are competing for nickels and dimes. He never raises the stakes dramatically even when Huck digs himself into a financial hole. This is all the more disappointing considering Hanson made the rap battles in 8 Mile tense affairs. “Sometimes nothing’s enough ” Huck says bluffing his way to a big win. Sorry but what Lucky You has is not enough to appease admirers of Hanson’s previous character studies or rabid fans of the World Series of Poker.

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