Nicholas Sparks has never been one to deviate from a formula. Take one ruggedly handsome heartthrob, throw him together with a beautiful country belle, add a generous dollop of cliché, a cartload of schmaltz and a bucket of syrupy over-sentimentality. Serve to your audience and laugh as they try not to be sick.
Zac Efron plays Logan, a marine recently back from three tours of Afghanistan. What got him through the tough times was a photo of a girl he found in some rubble with the words “Stay Safe” written on the back. When he makes it out alive, he feels compelled to find her and after some Googling, thinks nothing of walking from Colorado to Louisiana with his faithful dog Zeus.
There he finds Beth (Taylor Schilling) and gets a job at the boarding kennels that she runs with her grandmother (Blythe Danner). Beth is divorced from the town’s resident walking cliché – the bullying blowhard Deputy Sheriff Clayton – and is trying to raise their son Ben. But what she really needs in her life is a man, and wouldn’t you believe it, warrior-poet Logan might be just the guy for that job.
But as she and Logan get close, he finds himself unable to reveal the truth about the photo.
Zac Efron is a decent enough actor – he proved as much in Charlie St. Cloud and Me And Orson Welles. Here he’s completely wasted and hamstrung by an inert script that lacks any sort of motivation for its characters.
There’s no drama and no tension. In fact, if it wasn’t for the constant prodding of Blythe Danner (delightful and too good for this), none of the characters would even leave the house. You start to suspect that she’s part of a secret cabal of old ladies who have been covertly manipulating events to their own agenda for years.
The one nugget of potential drama – Logan’s reticence to tell the truth about the photo – isn’t even a big deal. After spending so much time together, it seems unlikely that Beth would even be that bothered but naturally The Lucky One postpones that inevitability till it’s deemed dramatically appropriate. A subplot involving Beth’s husband’s attempt to paint Logan as a stalker is tired and can never be taken seriously.
Despite director Scott Hicks’ insistance on bathing everything in golden sunlight at every opportunity, there’s no chemistry between Efron and Schilling. Here’s a director who likes his montages – Schilling and Efron running in the rain, Efron playing with the dogs, Schilling and Efron snogging under a convenient hose. In fact, it’s a film that’s got so many montages that by the end there could conceivably be a montage of its montages.
Even by the standards of conventional weepy melodrama, even for fans of Sparks’ oeuvre (Dear John is probably its closest relative), there’s nothing here to enjoy. There’s no romance, no chemistry, no drama, no nothing.