By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin April 20, 2012 at 1:05AM
People crave romantic movies, be they dramatic or funny—the box-office numbers prove it—and novelist Nicholas Sparks has provided the raw material for a number of such films including Dear John, Nights in Rodanthe, and most successfully, The Notebook. I think it’s fair to say that moviegoers know what to expect when they see one of these adaptations: attractive people in stories that bring them together, draw them apart, and offer some form of happy ending after necessary tears are shed. That’s all true of The Lucky One, directed by Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars) from a screenplay by Will Fetters.
Zac Efron plays a Marine who, while serving in Iraq, stops to pick up a snapshot of a pretty woman that’s been left on the ground; that moment’s pause saves his life, so he determines that when he returns home he is going to track the woman down and thank her. When he ultimately does find her (beautiful newcomer Taylor Schilling), and learns that she has lost her brother in combat, he doesn’t have the nerve to explain his presence. So he takes a job in her family’s dog kennel, and wins over both her grandmother (Blythe Danner) and her young son. Schilling is warier and tougher to win over.
I won’t elaborate on the plot points. I’ll just say that I could have done without the melodramatic elements that punctuate the film and underscore its climax. But that’s part of the formula: there has to be a crisis to keep the lovers apart until things can be resolved.
Like its two personable stars, The Lucky One is easy to watch, and just as easy to forget. But if you’re a sucker for romantic yarns it’s an agreeable-enough piece of escapism.