The Lucky One is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, and represents a career gamble for lead Zac Efron. After being labeled as a mere teen heartthrob, Efron has managed to break past the mold of more mainstream fare like 17 Again and Me and Orson Wells. Unfortunately, The Lucky One only highlights his limited range and vacant eyes.
Not helping matters is the entirely insipid movie surrounding him. Like most Nicholas Sparks adaptations, the film is dripping in mawkish melancholy and formulaic plot points. In addition, the movie is also surprisingly aimless. While at first it seems like Efron’s PTSD will be the source of the main conflict, after about half an hour the movie just disposes of that angle in favor of an entirely generic ex-husband antagonist. The movie also cheats by having Efron’s character withhold vital information for no logical reason. Despite being the lead, Efron’s character starts and ends the film as a one-dimensional veteran. If anything, Taylor Schilling’s supporting character has more of a traditional arc, although that’s a moot point since it’s entirely too conventional, and Schilling’s acting is too hysterical, even by the standards of Nicholas Sparks adaptations. Blythe Danner is also on hand solely for cutesy reaction shots.
I would hesitate to call the film bad as much as confusingly incompetent. The big emotional pay-off is contrived and feels like an afterthought, the acting is lacking, the writing is lazy, and the themes are clumsily heavy handed at times (there’s a groan inducing reference to Moby Dick of all things). The whole film fails to justify its existence. Even if you like schmaltzy romantic dramas, there’s little to recommend here. It’s not the worst but it is certainly the least interesting.