The Lucky One

Year: 2012
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Scott Hicks
Producer: Denise Di Novi
Writer: Will Fetters/Nicholas Sparks
Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner

Whatever happened to Scott Hicks? He's gone from making a film Steven Spielberg himself says he wishes he'd made to churning out dreary, sun dappled dramas nobody sees any more.

Even worse than a sun dappled drama, The Lucky One is a stomach-clenching romance of the most sickly sort. Nobody at the studio even had the sense to stop Hicks finishing it off with the slo-mo run down the driveway as the woman realises she loves the hero while he's in the middle of walking out of her life forever.

Personality, charm and talent-free zone Zac Efron is as suitable playing a US marine in Iraq as The Rock would be playing a henpecked accountant. He sees a photo in the sand not far off, and when the building behind him blows up it saves his life as he's walked over to get it.

When he comes back home psychologically damaged (but still appropriately capable, noble and hot) and finds he can't connect with his family again he starts to believe the woman (Schilling, looking old enough to be Efron's mother because of his prepubescent appearance) is his destiny as she's already saved his life. So he takes his faithful dog and walks across America to meet her.

Very contrived circumstances see him working for her boarding kennel and getting involved in her life and trials without her knowing who he is. He bonds with her young son, looks on worriedly (never changing expression) as her moustache-twirling ex husband bullies her by threatening to fight for custody of the kid, and the whole time her slightly crazy but knowing mother (Danner) watches on as they start to develop feelings.

It's like the screenwriter sat down with a checklist of the most emotional elements (teacher, solder, dog, kid) someone came out of a focus group with and the movie checked them off studiously. Efron had more chemistry with the kid than the woman – even their sex scene failing to rouse any passion or expression in him. It's manipulative, melodramatic and predictable from the first scene to the last.

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