Lucky Numbers

A TV weatherman and his girl rig the lottery in an unlucky mix of mirth and malice John Travolta nails every laugh he can as Russ Richards, a TV weather dork in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, circa 1988. As a local celeb, Russ commands his own booth at Denny's, boinks the station's lotto girl, Crystal (Lisa Kudrow), and raises enough cash to open his own snowmobile business. But when a balmy winter produces no snow, Russ faces financial ruin. Adam Resnick's bilious script, inspired by an actual lottery fraud, concerns a plan concocted by Russ and Crystal to rig the lotto drawing.

Lucky Numbers gets darker than you might expect for a movie directed by Nora Ephron, best known for souffles like Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and Michael, also starring Travolta. This flick is front-loaded with unsavory types, including a strip-club owner (a dryly funny Tim Roth), a hopped-up thug (Michael Rapaport), a greedy station manager (Ed O'Neill), a clueless cop (Bill Pullman) and Crystal's fat, asthmatic, perv cousin (Michael Moore). Premium actors all — it's a special kick to see "Friend" Kudrow as a twisted, murderous slut — but Ephron, try as she might, can't give her codified champagne spin to a Resnick script that all too quickly runs out of fizz.

From The Archives Issue 827: December 9, 1999