THE LUCKY ONE (Rated PG-13)
Sometimes all you need to know about the prospects for your enjoyment of a movie is the source material upon which the screenplay is written.
For example, the citation of J.K. Rowling conjures the vision of Harry Potter. What image comes to mind at the mention of the author Nicholas Sparks?
Admittedly, I have never read a Sparks novel and probably never will, thanks to what I know about film adaptations of “The Notebook,” “Nights in Rodanthe” and “A Walk to Remember,” just to name a few.
Nicholas Sparks is a very successful, bestselling storyteller, but I would say that I am not the target audience, unless I undergo a change of gender and shave off a few years.
“The Lucky One,” starring Zac Efron (“High School Musical”) of all people, is the latest adaption of Sparks’ novel, with a screenplay credited to Will Fetters.
Subjectively speaking, “The Lucky One” appears to be an average romantic drama, not quite as good as Sparks’ devotees would argue, but then not really as bad as many critics would believe.
The formulaic ingredients for romantic melodrama are all place. Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling (NBC drama series “Mercy”) are appealing, attractive leads, against the backdrop of scenic, bucolic small-town bayou Louisiana.
The story begins in a setting far removed from a tranquil rural environment. Efron’s Logan Thibault is a Marine Sergeant on his third tour of duty in the Iraq War.
Nearing the end of his last tour, Logan spots a photograph sticking out of the rubble during a fierce battle scene. Stooping down to pick it up saves his life from a nearby explosion.
The unidentified photograph of a pretty blonde becomes his talisman, a good luck charm that Logan carries everywhere, even back home to Colorado.
Determined to locate the mystery woman, Logan sets out on foot with his dog and ends up in Hamden, Louisiana in search of the woman who identified by locals as Beth (Schilling). You may wonder, as did I, why he just didn’t take the Greyhound bus.
Beth, along with her sassy grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner), runs a family-owned kennel. Showing up at her door, Logan meets Beth, but is unable to tell her about the photo and instead takes a menial job at the kennel.
Now you may wonder, as did I, why he just didn’t announce the true purpose of his unexpected arrival. Of course, she would have gracefully accepted his gratitude and maybe shared a few stories. The movie could have been over in less than a half-hour.
Because Logan fails to explain himself, Beth instinctively distrusts the mysterious stranger. Moreover, her life is complicated by divorce from local deputy sheriff Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) and a struggle over custody of their young son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart).
There are no surprises in “The Lucky One,” and thus over a period of time Beth warms to Logan, seeing how he is good with animals and especially with her son. Of course, grandma Ellie drops occasional words of encouragement or wisdom. That’s why Blythe Danner is in this film.
Still, there’s the lingering problem of Logan holding back the secret of the true reason he ended up in Louisiana. As the romantic connection between Beth and Logan inevitably unfolds, the unrevealed confidence remains the nagging impediment.
Unavoidably, “The Lucky One” will pursue some important questions. Will brutish sheriff Keith get drunk and threaten someone? Will Beth get mad when she finds out about the photo? Will your popcorn go stale before the end credits roll?
The question you may want to ask yourself is whether this is the right movie for you. In the end, it won’t matter what grumpy critics think. A Nicolas Sparks-inspired film has its ready audience.
TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL
What is the golden age of Hollywood? The answer is subjective, depending on the taste of a varied audience clamoring to see great films on the big screen.
The recent TCM Classic Film Festival provided a lot of opportunities for film buffs. Thankfully, there will be a fourth annual festival around this time next year.
One of the biggest highlights was “How the West Was Won” being screened in the wide-screen Cinerama format. Fan favorites like “Casablanca” and “Singin’ in the Rain” got the star treatment at the fabled Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
One treat was getting to see the still beautiful Kim Novak introducing the classic Alfred Hitchcock “Vertigo.” Mind you, Novak made this great film in 1958.
I particularly enjoyed seeing Mel Brooks introduce “Young Frankenstein.” He told the story of how Gene Wilder was a last minute replacement in “Blazing Saddles” and that during the filming the two of them came up with the story for “Young Frankenstein.”
The festival also featured some great film noir, including “Cry Danger,” with an appearance by star Rhonda Fleming, and “Gun Crazy,” with co-star Peggy Cummins.
British actress Cummins left Hollywood in 1950, and the TCM festival marked her visit in 62 years. It was great to hear her tell stories about a bygone era.
Film buffs should make every effort to attend next year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, which keeps getting better.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.