The romantic drama “The Lucky One” is the seventh film to be adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel. Like “The Notebook,” “The Last Song,” “Dear John” and others before it, “The Lucky One” delivers a story about a star-crossed romance that must defy the inevitable odds. Aside from underwhelming acting from the leading man, “The Lucky One” offers a horribly cheesy but nonetheless enjoyable love story — puppies included.
After Logan (Zac Efron), a Marine fighting in Iraq, finds a photo in the rubble of a woman with the words “Keep safe” scrawled on the back, he tries to find its owner among his fellow Marines. When no one claims it, he continues to carry the photo with him, and he comes to regard it as his good luck charm — his “guardian angel” — that he believes helps him survive many close calls in the war.
When Logan returns home after his third tour, he vows to find the woman in the photo and thank her. When he finally encounters the breathtaking woman, Beth (Taylor Schilling), he finds himself unable to tell her why he has come to find her. She assumes during his silence that Logan is there for a part-time job at her dog kennel, which Logan accepts on a whim.
Like in most Nicholas Sparks stories, the couple in “The Lucky One” faces several overdone obstacles. Beth’s frightening ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson), the father of her son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), maintains a controlling grasp on Beth’s life, forbidding her to see Logan if she wants to keep custody of Ben. And of course, the small detail that Logan is incapable of revealing to Beth why he came to find her looms dauntingly overhead throughout much of the film, keeping viewers on their toes.
Stubbly hunk Efron is strong and silent as a Marine, an unexpected role for the former “High School Musical” star. But rather than coming off as traumatized and reserved, he is awkward on screen, looking at Beth in what comes off as a creepily intense stare, rather than a smoldering, contemplative one. To top it off, his few quietly delivered, cringe-worthy lines ooze clichés — “You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute.”
Schilling as Beth is a realistic mix of sassy and cautious, saving the pair from an on-screen demise. She is convincing in her gradual transition from her initial skepticism to her infatuation with Logan, and she goes beyond expectations in a particularly emotional scene where she breaks down on her late brother’s birthday, leaving viewers tear-stricken.
In spite of his flawed delivery, there is no doubt Efron has chemistry with Schilling, exhibited in steamy scenes where Logan and Beth canoodle under an outdoor shower, fully clothed, and embrace passionately in the bare bedroom of Logan’s “Notebook”-esque, broken-down farmhouse.
Despite of its overall cheesiness and Efron’s lackluster acting, the story is enjoyable enough. After all, not much more can be expected from a Nicholas Sparks film than a hopeful romance that overcomes a dramatic rift — and though undeniably predictable, viewers will likely keep coming back for more of Sparks’ stories.
“The Lucky One” was directed by Scott Hicks and written by Will Fetters and Nicholas Sparks.