As romantic dramas go, The Lucky One is pretty thin stuff. It has a workable premise and everything, but the movie can't think of anything to do with itself, so it pads out its running time with one musical montage after another. You know a director has run out of ideas when he puts two different montages in about a span of two minutes apart from each other. The film is based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, who has done much better (and worse) than this. This falls somewhere in the middle.
Our hero is Logan, a Marine fighting overseas as the film begins, and played with wooden indifference by Zac Efron. There's nothing particularly interesting about Logan to begin with. He's handsome, he's noble, he works hard, and that's about it when it comes to his personality. Despite this, Efron could have shown a bit more life in his performance. After a particularly intense battle, Logan spots a photo of a woman lying in the rubble of the battlefield. Lucky thing he found and walked over to that photo, as moments later, a bomb drops where he was standing just seconds ago, killing his comrades. Logan finishes his tour, but is obsessed with discovering who the woman in the picture is, and who it belongs (or belonged) to. He returns home briefly to Colorado to live with family for a while, but when he can't readjust to civilian life, he packs his bags and, with his faithful dog Zeus by his side, decides to walk cross country to search out who the mysterious woman in the photo is.
His travels take him all the way to North Carolina, which is quite an amazing feat to walk all that distance. What's even more amazing is how Logan managed not to get dirty, or even mess up or grow out his hair during those many long months of walking. He arrives at a farmhouse/dog kennel, where it just so happens that the woman in the photo lives and works there. She's Beth (Taylor Schilling), who works at the kennel, is a single mother to her seven-year-old son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), and shares the home with her mother (Blythe Danner, who gives the most interesting performance in the film). Logan means to tell Beth about the photo he found that day, but he just can't bring himself to mention it. Part of this is because of Logan having issues with his own past as a soldier, and part of this is for plot convenience, so that the movie can drag out his secret as long as it can, until it is dramatically appropriate. He takes a job at the kennel, and becomes a natural taking care of the many dogs.
He also starts building a bond with both Beth and her young son. She starts sharing her private hopes and dreams with him, and little Ben starts taking him to the old tree house where he hangs out, which is accessible only by crossing a rickety old bridge over a raging river. As soon as I saw that broken down old bridge, I knew it would collapse at one point - most likely during the intense climax, and during a storm. Sure enough, as the climax approached, those storm clouds started rolling in, and all the central characters started heading for that bridge. Logan also gets to meet Beth's ex-husband, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), who serves as the town Sheriff as well as the town bully. He's a one dimensional villain who exists solely to push Logan and Beth around, and threaten to take Ben away from them. As a villain, he couldn't be any less subtle if he was wearing a T-shirt at all times that had the words "HI! I'M A SLIMEBALL!" written on it.
The Lucky One is pretty standard stuff as these kind of films go - The central romance between Logan and Beth is nice and all, but the characters don't really have a lot of personality to go with their physical attractiveness. You get the feeling that these two don't have a lot to talk about when they're alone. The movie also has its share of corny romantic lines, such as when Logan tells her, "You deserve to be kissed every hour, every minute, every second of every day", or when he says, "Finding that picture of you on the battlefield was like finding an angel in Hell". Yes, the movie is gooey in its sentimentality, but it never offends. I also enjoyed Blythe Danner's performance. She seems to know what kind of a movie she's stuck in, and has a little fun with it, delivering some much needed sarcasm and wit in her performance. It's no wonder I found her the most interesting character, she's the only one who gets to act like a real person.
The movie was directed by Scott Hicks (No Reservations), who's done some films I've admired, but seems to be cashing a paycheck here. I don't blame him for wanting to take it easy once in a while, but I wish he had picked a more interesting script. I can't really picture The Lucky One being a very memorable romantic weepie, but hey, I said the same thing about The Vow, so what do I know?