At the Movies
The frozen meal of romance movies
By Ian Black
Special to The Sun
So who’s up for a little spring romance? The sun is out…well…it is while I’m writing this, anyway. And perhaps the feeling of love is in the air.
Now, I don’t know how most of you feel about Nicholas Sparks, if you even know him. I’m not really a fan myself, but he’s an Oregon writer so I assume he’s got some local fans out here. Nicholas Sparks writes romances the same way Dean Koontz (or any number of similar writers) writes mysteries; that is to say, he writes what is essentially the same story over and over again, changing around the names and places.
You see, people like stability in their fiction more often than not. It’s why crime dramas are popular, because each week you know exactly what you’re going to get. There’s a comfort in that. It’s never been a comfort I’ve subscribed to, but at the very least I understand it. It’s also why the latest film based on a Nicholas Sparks’ novel, “The Lucky One,” was exactly what I expected, too.
The titular “Lucky One” is Logan (Zac Efron) a soldier doing his third tour in Iraq. While on patrol, he stops to pick up a photo of a girl he finds on the side of the road, the same kind of thing that happens every week on Fox’s “Touch.” In so doing he avoids getting blown up by a bomb sent at the rest of his squad.
The photo continues to bring him good luck and on return to the states, he decides to seek out the girl in the photo a la Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” with the FedEx box. However when he finds the girl in question, Beth (Taylor Schilling), he gets tongue-tied and instead acts like he’s looking for work.
Logan begins to hang around Beth (a little stalker-ish) and eventually the romance for which this entire movie was made begins.
It is, of course, hampered by the usual things in these types of situations: jealous exes and “big secrets.” In the end though it all works out, proving two very important life lessons. One: that love conquers all, and two: that stalking always works, but only if you’re attractive.
Seriously, what can I even say about this film? It’s “Romance Movie 101.” You’ve seen everything here before. A studio has a stock love story plot; they throw two attractive actors at each other and hope it works. In this case, it didn’t. Is that going to matter to the people this movie is aimed squarely at? Probably not. Like I said, people are used to getting the same thing over and over, and in fact want it.
However, even by the standard set by previous Nicholas Sparks adaptations, such as “The Notebook” which launched the film career of Ryan Gosling, who would later go on to star in good movies, “The Lucky One” feels really stock.
Now, this doesn’t mean I hate romances. On the contrary, if it’s done well (“500 Days of Summer” comes to mind) I’m just fine with them. The problem is, this isn’t real romance. It’s just melodrama mixed with a lot of really forced and predictable scenes. Why on earth would I enjoy going to see something I’ve already seen so many times?
When people get romance right, that’s a whole other story. For instance, last year’s “Crazy, Stupid Love” was a fantastic example of doing it right. There was comedy, drama and romance, the whole package. They even had attractive actors. The difference was those actors actually had chemistry, instead of just good looks.
I’m not saying Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling are necessarily bad, they just had nothing to work with. The story was stock, the script was pre-packaged, and the entire movie was phoned in. There’s nothing you can really even do with something like that.
“The Lucky One” wasn’t awful. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible for something this cookie-cutter to be awful, just in the same way it can never be good.
You pick up movies like this in the frozen food section next to the Banquet meals and frozen pizzas. Yeah it’s food, yeah it’ll feed you, but you aren’t going to remember it the next day.
This is a perfectly average film, and so it gets a perfectly average score. Save your money, and wait for the summer movies starting in a few weeks.
Entertainment Value: 5