Wednesday 22 November 2017

Nauseating slush with unlikely twists

Paul Whitington

The Lucky one

(12A general release, 100 minutes)

Director: Scott Hicks Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R Ferguson


In case you think the world is fair, read a book by Nicholas Sparks. The man writes -- in remedial English -- sappy, slushy, tragedy-strewn sagas that rely on coincidences so extravagant Charles Dickens might balk at them, and plots so wishy-washy the people at Mills & Boon would draw the line. And yet he is worth an estimated $30m, and seven of his novels have thus far been turned into films.

The Lucky One is pretty standard Sparks fare, and begins in Iraq, where we're offered the frankly ridiculous sight of Zac Efron in army fatigues and a helmet. He is, we are expected to believe, a US Marine sergeant called Logan Thibault who's on his third tour of duty of that unfortunate land. While he's patrolling the ruins of a Baghdad building, Logan finds a discarded photo of a pretty blonde woman who may have been dropped by a fallen soldier. On the back is the simple message, 'keep safe', but there's no clue as to who she is.

After he finds it, Logan has a series of miraculous escapes from explosions and enemy attacks, and starts to believe the photo has somehow protected him. So when he returns to America at the end of his tour, he sets out to find the woman and thank her.

Using a lighthouse in the back of the photo as a guide, he traces her to a small town in Louisiana, and strikes out on foot from his Colorado home in the company of his faithful German Shepherd (Sparks's heroes often have dogs, it makes them seem more soulful).

When he finally locates Beth Clayton (Taylor Schilling), his nerve fails him and he stands there with his gob open catching flies. She runs a pet kennel, and assumes he has come about the job she advertised in the local paper.

Logan takes it, to the delight of Beth's young son, Ben, and the extreme displeasure of her possessive ex-husband, Keith (Jay R Ferguson).

Keith is a sinister southern sheriff in the dubious tradition of Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard, and Blythe Danner is Beth's pushy, knowing mother, Nana, who acts as a kind of omniscient matchmaker.

All the characters are one-dimensional constructs in the service of a sentimental plot, and, to make things worse Sparks and the screenwriter Will Fetters throw in a nauseating dose of flag-waving jingoism. This tower of slush cascades towards a frankly risible climax, in which true love triumphs and woe betide those who have stood in its way.

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