Zac Efron is long gone from his “High School Musical” days. He tackles a more mature role, demonstrating emotional growth and proving to audiences that he should be taken seriously, in the “The Lucky One,” an unimaginative take on another Nicholas Sparks novel.
At only 25 years of age, U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) has already completed his third tour of duty in Iraq. Somehow, he was the only one of his buddies to make it out alive. He credits it all to one thing—a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know.
When he finishes serving his last tour of duty, Logan stops at nothing to search for the woman so he can thank her for being his guardian angel. He discovers her name is Beth (Taylor Schilling) and that she is a divorced single mom. He takes a job at her family-run kennel. Beth, because of her past, is skeptical at first of Logan’s intentions but quickly finds herself attracted to him.
Efron fulfills a very engaging performance as Logan, even grasping the little mannerisms of a war veteran who shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Logan seeks a quiet life post-duty and desperately tries to forget the chaos in the warzone.
Efron became a household name through the “High School Musical” franchise and has come a long way from starring in features targeted for young adolescents. None of his past roles can compare to the depth and complexities of this character Logan Thibault, in which Efron’s acting abilities have been pushed to the limit. Thankfully, he delivers.
Fresh-faced Taylor Schilling captures and translates all the pain that lies with Beth Green’s dark past but seems constrained and doesn’t leave much of an impression, despite her balance between playing a young love-struck adult and a single mother. Maybe it is the dialogue, but Efron and Schilling’s chemistry seems weak on many levels, no matter how intimate the scene is.
Director Scott Hicks fails to stray from the conventional romantic drama template, leaving the film very one-dimensional. Hicks’s creative vision doesn’t deliver the maximum potential through his use of unevenly placed scenes and angles, mostly relying on the visual appeal of the main actors and the gorgeous hues of the Louisiana scenery.
To say the least without spoiling anything, Sparks’s film adaptations are best known for their sweet, sappy romance and tearjerker stories—and this one is no exception. “The Lucky One” carries a steady pace that culminates to an underwhelming and forced wrap-up. There are moments that feel disconnected in translation and which could have been cultivated into something more with additional development.
Though it is not a film that offers anything to be gushing about, it is honest to its genre and is exactly what you would expect from a Sparks romance.