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Mr. Brown Verses The Lucky One

This maybe the most infuriating review i've written on my blog thusfar, and considering that i've written about Sandler's astronomically spiteful and mean spirited That's My Boy and the Twilight sequels New Moon and Eclipse (and coming in the near future, the conclusion with Breaking Dawn Part I and Part II) that's saying something, so apologies if I start dropping F-bombs left, right and center.

You're probably wondering,  'What brought me to this level of frustration?' Well, let me tell you the story about a novelist who's books would become a hot commodity in the Hollywood: Nicholas Sparks. It all started with the 1999 romantic drama, Message in a Bottle, the first of the author's novels that would be later adapted to film. The movie was a modest hit domestically, bringing in $52 million and additional $66 million abroad, combining for a worldwide gross of $118 million. Warner Bros, the studio that distributed the film, saw the movie's decent success and decided to adapt another one of Sparks' novels, this time with A Walk to Remember, released in early 2002. Despite the negative reviews from the critics and disappointing box office returns, Sparks' 2nd book-to-film adaptation marks an important point going forward: See, despite the critics panning the film adaptation, it was warmly received by the audience, earning a 7.2 rating on IMDB, and I think the biggest reason for that high rating is due to the likability of the two leads: Shane West as Landon, and pop star Mandy Moore as Jamie. Director Adam Shankman stated that he wanted to hire actors who were in their teens as a way to connect with said teenage audience, hence the casting of Moore and West in their leading roles. The decision worked well: A Walk to Remember won twice at the 2002 Teen Choice Awards for Breakout Actress for Moore and On-Screen Chemistry between the two romantic leads.

Then came 2004's The Notebook, the third of Sparks' novels to be adapted to film, and the movie that made a significant impact in the romantic movie genre. Not only did this movie win over it's targeted female demographic; not only did it establish the careers of Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, respectively, not only did it gross $81 million in the U.S. and Canada combined; but the sweeping romantic drama has been regarded as one of the most memorable romantic movies, from it's characters, to it's movie moments. Since then, studio after studio have been trying to get their hands on Sparks' romantic novels, with Warner Bros, to this date, having released the most under his name. Today we're looking at The Lucky One, and even before I watched this, I was already not expecting much. See, these film adaptations mostly bland, predictable, melodramatic chick flicks that follow the same formula that Sparks himself reverts to in his novels: the two romantic leads fall in love, but powerful forces (war, class status, another lover, the passage of time itself) threaten to tear them apart, but eventually their love is strong enough to overcome all obstacles and all that shit.

So imagine my surprise when the first 12 minutes of the film actually manage to surprise and give the story some depth: Logan (Zac Efron) comes home after his third tour of duty from Iraq, and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and struggles to adjust to civilian life again. You see, during his tour, Logan survives a surprise mortar attack from enemy forces as he spots a picture of a woman lying in the rubble, the back of the photo saying "keep safe x". The photo turns out to be a good luck charm, as he escapes many close calls, including another ambush in which his Humvee gets blown to hell, losing his best mate in the middle of it all. He decides to set off to find this woman who helped keep him safe during his service, a journey that he and his German Sheppard walk all the way from Colorado to Louisiana. Efron, best known for the High School Musical movies on Disney, actually does a nice job in the opening scene, struggling to make the transition from Marine back to regular citizen, and this would be a very interesting narrative if the source material and the filmmakers decided to explore more of what Efron's character has been through and how thanking the woman for saving his life would bring him some much needed closure.

Of course, this is a Nicholas Sparks movie, and we don't want to distract the mostly female audience with real-life complications! No, we need something more generic and cliche to make Efron and Taylor Schilling, playing the woman in the photo, Beth, fall in love with each other! When he arrives, he has trouble explaining to Beth why he's here, and she assumes Logan's answering the ad in the paper about a job opening, as she's looking for an assistant who's good with dogs. Oh, and the whole Logan struggling with survivor's guilt and post traumatic stress? It's a plot point, because it's never really mentioned or shown again on-screen. This is one of many problems I have with The Lucky One: the movie has signs of a good setup, but the source material, almost instantaneously, falls into predictability. Beth is skeptical about Logan's story to the point where she all-but tells him to beat it, if it weren't for her mother, Ellie (Blythe Danner) who gives him the job, against her daughter's wishes. Logan wants to tell Beth about why he walked all the way from the Rockies to see her and explain how a picture kept him alive., but because he becomes so enamored with her, that he never gets around to telling her, all the while he helps around the dog kernel, becomes a positive role in the life of Beth's young son, Ben, tells Beth's asshole ex-husband sheriff, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) to back off, and has sex with her.

Another problem is the fact Efron's character doesn't bother to explain the situation until the predictable 3rd act, which breaks him and Beth up! I understand that it's a far-fetched story, but dude, man up and tell her the truth! By not doing this one thing, the romance that's been building and building is mostly based on a deception on Logan's part. Sure, a misunderstanding by Beth as she didn't allow him to finish his story and explain why he's here, but a deception nonetheless because he never comes clean throughout the middle of the movie! By far the most infuriating aspect of The Lucky One is the ex-husband, Keith. I've seen my share of cartoonish asshole fiancees and boyfriends before, but Keith goes the extra mile in being a loathing bastard. His backstory on how they wound up divorced is a cliche unto itself: he was the captain of the Varsity team, and they were high school sweethearts. They have sex, Beth winds up pregnant.and decide to get married in order to make sure they have a father figure in the child's life. He doesn't take his vows seriously, and cheats on Beth, causing the divorce. His douchebaggery doesn't stop there: his bullish behavior constantly makes his ex-wife uncomfortable whenever he's around, to the point where he threatens Beth that he'll take their son away from er and reminds her of this in almost every scene that they're in together.Add in that he abuses his powers as a sheriff to have other deputies spy on her ex, pulls a loaded gun on Logan while intoxicated and breaks into his house without a search warrant, and we have a contemptible prick who you hope gets his comeuppance at the end.

The Lucky One is a tired, formulaic romantic drama that doesn't bring anything new to the table, and the movie piles on one cliche after another. The characters are mostly one-dimensional and there just isn't room for much development thought the run time. The acting, while decent in a few spot areas, such as the opening sequence by Efron, comes off as wooden as as one-dimensional as the characters they're playing.Director Scott Hicks just copies the source material to the letter and as a result, there's no moment of originality that separates the film adaptation from the material it's based on. It's a lazy, generic chick flick that Hollywood keeps churning out because that's what the female audience wants to see on-screen, and sadly, they're right. I know this to be true because The Lucky One was a modest box office success, making over $60 million domestically, and because studios keep adapting Nicholas Sparks' stories into movies, including the latest romantic drama, Safe Haven, which has made over $62 million in North America, despite the critical bashing it's taken. I should be more pissed off at this movie, but to be perfectly honest: this isn't even the worst of the Sparks' adaptations. Believe me, there's worse...much, much worse....

* 1/2 stars out of ****


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