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Blu-ray Review: The Lucky One

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As a male, I reserve the right to be skeptical of a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. That said, I thought the plot description for The Lucky One showed some potential: a Marine serving in Iraq finds a photograph of a beautiful woman and considers her a good-luck charm after surviving months of combat.  When he returns to the States, he tries to track her down so he can thank her.

A movie about the Marine’s cross-country search for the woman who “saved his life” could have been the basis for an interesting film.  Sadly, The Lucky One dispenses with the search before the opening credits have even rolled.  The Marine, played by Zac Efron, matches a lighthouse in the photo to one in Louisiana.  The fact that Efron and his dog walked all the way from Colorado to Louisiana is treated like an afterthought.

He meets the girl, played by Taylor Schilling (from NBC’s short-lived Mercy, and the first Atlas Shrugged movie), who runs a kennel with her grandmother (Blythe Danner, reliable as always).  Unable to get out the words about why he came to see her–a running theme throughout this movie–Efron winds up taking a job as a labourer and settling down in what looks like the town haunted house.

Efron and the blissfully unaware Schilling–who soon reveals that she lost her brother in Iraq, a particularly tough blow after losing her parents in a car accident as a child–inevitably become more than just friends.  Meanwhile, Schilling’s son, a fiddle-playing chess prodigy who nevertheless enjoys baseball and pretending to be a Jedi Knight, recognizes and bonds with a new dad when he sees one.  Unfortunately, his real dad, a Deputy Sheriff and son of the mayor, no less, has other plans.

The Lucky One is a  beautiful looking film.  Director Scott Hicks (an Oscar nominee for Shine, who must be wondering how he wound up making a Nicholas Sparks movie) and DP Alar Kivilo, filming on location near New Orleans, make the Louisiana countryside look like a golden-hued paradise. There’s no sign of lingering Katrina damage in this Louisiana.

The performances are generally fine, too.  Zac Efron makes a better ex-Marine than anyone could have reasonably expected, and Schilling acquits herself well in her first major starring role.  (I’m being generous and not counting the low-budget Atlas Shrugged movie.)  Mad Men‘s Jay R. Ferguson, as Schilling’s ex-husband, does a particularly good job conveying not only the cockiness and arrogance of an abusive ex, but also the self-loathing and guilt.

The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack (which also includes an online Ultraviolet copy of the film, not available to we Canucks) is light on special features: no filmmaker’s commentary, and just three short making-of documentaries.  The 1080p video transfer is crisp and clear, but the Dolby 5.1 audio is just average, with the dialogue a bit softer and quieter than it should have been.

At 101 minutes in length, The Lucky One at least moves at a decent pace, but anyone who hasn’t already bought into Nicholas Sparks will find it hopelessly cliched.  But maybe that’s just my Y Chromosome talking.  My wife loved it.

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About Damian P.