Consider yourself lucky if this review is the closest you get to the contamination known as The Lucky One. Ever since 2004's The Notebook became the default choice in chick flicks, based solely on the heat generated by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the weepie-creepy bestsellers of Nicholas Sparks have ignited a plague of Hollywood tearjerkers. The Lucky One is the latest Sparks assault. Is it the worst of the seven screen Sparks so far? Nope. My vote still goes to 2009's The Last Song with Miley Cyrus mothering those unhatched turtle eggs. But it's still pretty damn insufferable. Directed by Scott Hicks, who once had decent reputation with the Oscar-nominated Shine, The Lucky One has all the substance of a calendar of beautiful landscapes filled with banal people. It's either sunny or stormy to mark the emotions of the characters.
Zac Efron plays Logan Thibault, a Marine numbed by three tours in Iraq. What sustained him in combat was the photo he found in the rubble, showing a pretty blonde who wrote on the back, "Stay Safe." That he did, while the unlucky died around him. Back home, Logan is determined to find this angel. A computer search leads him to Louisiana. He thinks nothing of walking there from Colorado with his German Shepherd, Zeus (good dog!). It turns out Beth (Taylor Schilling), the girl in the photo, runs a kennel with her grandma (Blythe Danner, way too good for this piffle). Beth, divorced from Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), the town's bullying cliché of a deputy sheriff, and raising their young son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), can use a handyman. And that's not all. She can use a man. Cue the sex.
Efron has beefed up for the role, going moody and silent in the process of erasing all traces of High School Musical. He's proved himself a solid actor in Me and Orson Welles and the Sundance entry, Liberal Arts. But Efron is stymied here by the inertia of the script, which contrives to delay Logan telling Beth who he is until just the wrong time. Cue the storm. Schilling, saddled with the albatross of having played Dagny Taggart in the mega-flop film version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, tries hard to stir up some chemistry with her costar. But Hicks bathes them so relentlessly in in sun-dappled light that their relationship degenerates into a series of insipid poses. Face it, The Lucky One doesn't have a genuine emotion in it or a plausible reason to endure it. It's strictly for the sisters of the cult of Sparks and the men who love them.