If those guys who make all those Scary Movie-style parodies ever tried to make fun of Nicholas Sparks books, you’d hardly be able to tell their mockeries from the originals.
The author, who has figured out the magic formula to make forgiving romantics swoon and everyone else cough up a hairball, has no fear of repeating himself and striving for romance that’s so romantic it stretches past the point of absurdity, deep into space into the orbit of Neptune.
Take a line of dialogue that serves as the catch phrase for The Lucky One. Logan (Zac Efron), a mysterious, solemn drifter, stares into the eyes of broken-heated Southern belle Beth (Taylor Schilling), and says, with a straight face, “You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute.” That line shows exactly how The Lucky One can work on two levels. Romantics are like “Ohmigawd! He’s soooo in love with her just like Edward is with Bella when he watches her while she sleeps,” while normal people just laugh – both at the movie and those people.
Those who can appreciate it on either or both levels will find plenty to adore in the movie, just as in the Sparks movies Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and The Last Song. Just like James Bond movies or Kardashian marriages, seen one and you’ve seen ‘em all. The fact that you’re willing to see another one says something about the sturdiness of the concept. There will always be a place in moviedom for unabashed romances about strong, silent types who sweep sad Southern belles who weren’t quite sure if they could ever love again off their bare feet, protecting them from angry, abusive exes.
You’ve got to hand it to Sparks for riding his one-trick pony loud and proud. Actors who can mutter Sparks’s dialogue without bursting out in laughter also deserve credit. Donning depression stubble and an upside-down version of his dopey High School Musical perma-grin, Efron does some solid work as Logan. His character is the Lucky One of the title, because, it figures, he’s the one who gets to rock Taylor Schilling’s body in a PG-13 sex montage midway through the movie.
A war vet who suffers from spontaneous shell-shock moments every bit as comically random as those in South Park, he scoops up a picture of Beth on the battlefield, then tracks her down after some astoundingly fast computer research. He finds Beth running a riverside doggie hostel along with her firecracker granny (Blythe Danner) and her Ronald McDonald-haired boy. Oh, and over there hiding in the bushes is friendly Abusive Stalker Ex (Jay R. Ferguson), just waiting to make Logan look better by acting a fool and allowing our man to put him in his place.
It takes many days, hours and minutes of longing stares until Logan and Beth get to having daily, hourly and minutely sex, but once they get there they more than make up for lost time. Abusive Stalker Ex is probably watching and slamming plates, but that takes place offscreen and doesn’t kill the mood.
What does kill the mood is Logan’s dark secret, which causes a five-minute dispute between the lovers that leads up, naturally, to a tense action sequence involving a collapsing bridge. I really wish I could tell you the end, but you’ll never hear from me whom a house somehow hilariously falls on and kills, The Wizard of Oz-style. Your eyes will certainly be filled with tears as the credits roll.
Does it really matter whether they came from heartmelt or laughter?
Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Bythe Danner, Riley Thomas Scott and Jay R. Ferguson. Written by Will Fetters, adapted from the book by Nicholas Sparks. Directed by Scott Hicks. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13.