| April 19, 2012

I must warn you: This isn't your typical movie review column. Most critics will spoil everything about the film before you’ve seen a frame, but my ratings system is simple: Is it worthy of a date night out at the movies? Blu-ray? Or is it just a bust?

Nicholas Sparks' “The Lucky One” falls right in with his past work, (“The Notebook,” “Dear John” and “The Last Song”), pushing a central love-conquerors-all theme — no surprises there. The plot is similar to what you'd expect in one of these touchy-feely romance dramas in which two people are brought together in an incredibly unlikely way. Is it chance? Fate? Destiny? You decide.

The story is about how a U.S. Marine, Logan Thibault (played by Zac Efron), credits his survival in Iraq to one thing: finding a lucky photograph of a young woman. Once he returns home, he decides to track down the woman in the picture, Beth, to thank her. (Romantic, or stalker creepy?)

All the usual romantic clichés and cheese are piled high in this one:

  • Guy tries to tell girl why he's really there to see her, but dang it, he just keeps getting tripped up. Check!
  • Girl likes guy but doesn't realize it. Oh, and she has an evil ex-husband lurking around and an adorable kid to boot. Check!!
  • Girl's friend or family member (in this case, Beth's Grandmother) sees through the act, and pushes her towards this total stranger who drifted into town just knowing he's a good person. Check!!!

We ALL know there's a formula to these movies, and it usually works. Unfortunately, this time around it feels flat. All the lake shots, sunsets and dimly lit love scenes between Logan and Beth don't give me that, "Oh gosh, I hope these kids make it!" feeling. Also, as much as I love a classic movie montage, the six or eight in this film were excessive.

Cast-wise, Efron does a decent job and plays the silent hero well. His character is (of course) the ultimate man, or should I say a perfect angel? He's buff with macho marine skills, well educated (he studied philosophy in college!), plays the piano and is easy on the eyes because he's freakin' Zac Efron! He raises the bar to a ridiculous level no boyfriend or husband could ever really reach. So keep that in mind, ladies, and go easy on the comparisons to your special someone.

Leading lady Beth is played by the pretty Taylor Schilling, and she’s just OK. The bright spot for me was the scene-stealing performance by Blythe Danner. Danner delights as Beth's grandmother Ellie Green, nailing her role as a spunky, upbeat and reassuring influence in Beth's life, while providing a few nice laughs for viewers.

Unfortunately, some other laughs broke out along the way during parts not intended to be humorous: "You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute." That line got an audience-full of LOLs. Oops.

All in all, I wanted more. I wanted “The Notebook.”

The Date Nighter says: Don’t do it! Save the gas money you’d burn driving to the theater and instead use the cash to buy a bottle of wine and make it a Netflix night. You'll thank me in the morning.

Rating: Blu-ray at best.