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The Lucky One: Cheesy Chick Flick
We’ve all seen, at the very least, one Nicholas Sparks film which is enough to figure out the formula that has probably made him into a millionaire by now. While they’re usually super cheesy, they sweep you along in a torrent of emotion. You laugh, you cry, you swoon and you leave the cinema happy. But even with adjusted expectations, The Lucky One isn’t particularly entertaining.
The film is completely centred on the romance and so there’s absolutely nothing to distract from Zac Efron’s zombie-like state. Or from the film’s frightfully cheesy dialogue. Or from the fact that it packs a whole hoard of clichés into an hour and a half in a desperate plea to activate our tear ducts.
Efron plays Logan, a marine stationed in some Arab country (turns out to be Iraq) fighting the scary brown men. The morning after an ambush, he finds a picture of a blonde chick with the words ‘keep safe’ on the back. He carries the picture around with him everywhere, like a talisman, and lo and behold, he cheats death several times while a ton of people around him die. Traumatized, he returns to America with the aim of finding the girl in the picture and thanking her for being his guardian angel. He tracks her down, is unable to show her the picture or tell her why he’s there, takes a job near her and they soon fall in love. The blonde girl turns out to be a single mum by the name of Beth (Schilling) who has an abusive ex who keeps threatening to take their kid away from her and who doesn’t like the fact that she’s seeing Logan.
Out of the two leads, Taylor Schilling is definitely the least offensive, though Blythe Danner, as Beth’s grandmother, despite being the most watchable person on screen, was a rather head scratching piece of casting. Beth’s mother would be understandable but grandmother? Either she’s found the fountain of youth or Beth looks far older than she actually is. Schilling’s character fluctuates between brave, selfless mother and helpless female, both of which only require her to stand around looking pretty which isn’t exactly difficult for someone who looks like Katy Perry’s blonde twin. All in all, she’s pleasantly bland. Efron on the other hand looks like a buff, tanned corpse. His character is supposed to be grieving for all the friends he lost on duty but what we get from Efron is a complete lack of emotion. When he’s not showing off just how nice he is by playing with Beth’s kid, he’s standing around blank faced, looking stiff. Resembling a teenager isn’t helping his cause much either.
The lack of tension is what really does the film in though. The Notebook had a sense of urgency about it. You genuinely rooted for the couple to be together even though they weren’t necessarily pleasant characters. Part of that was Amy McAdams and Ryan Gosling’s chemistry which Efron and Schilling lack but on the other hand there was an actual obstacle keeping them apart. In The Lucky One, their troubles are more hiccups than roadblocks.
This film is really only recommended for die hard Nicholas Sparks fans or people who don’t mind staring at beautiful actors, sun drenched scenery and a gaggle of adorable dogs in lieu of a decent story. Stay away if you’re prone to incessant eye rolling.
As far as buddy-comedies go, you can do a lot worse than Etan Cohen’s – not to be confused with the other Ethan of ‘Ethan & Joel Coen’ – partially entertaining and exceptionally raunchy Get Hard. Written by the director himself – along with the help of Jay Martel and Ian Roberts – the latest Ferrell & Hart coalition is promising of a few laughs, but, it’s definitely not for everyone.
The story is centered on a cheerfully unconcerned multimillionaire trader, James King (Ferrell) who is unexpectedly arrested for the suspicion of fraud and embezzlement. Outraged and willing to fight for his innocence, James soon finds out that his ‘type of people’ – you know the white-collar ones – are no longer protected by the judicial system and he is soon sentenced to ten years in a maximum security prison.
Scared and worried at what awaits him, James – who has been given thirty days to get his affairs in order - soon comes across Darnell Lewis (Hart); a straight and hard-working African-American who runs the car-cleaning service in the garage of James’ firm. Determined to get as much help as he can get, James turns to the only man he believes knows a thing or two about prison. However, what he doesn’t know is that Darnell – who is more than happy to accept the thirty-thousand-dollars payment – is just as naïve about life in prison as he is.
Get Hard is not original nor is it exceptionally funny. Its lack of creativity shows and its love for conventionality is at times a little hard to bear. However, in the midst of all the vulgarity it so shamelessly finds itself in – the prison-rape jokes as well as sexual assault humor is a little on the excessive side but plenty funny if you allow it to be - there is still enough room for laughter. The jokes – which involve a lot of ‘back-door’ talk and other seemingly offensive behavior which some viewers might find a little hard to sit-through – don’t always land where they’re supposed to but, when they do, the results are rewarding.
The one thing that keeps the movie from falling completely flat on its face is the genuine chemistry between the two leads who have managed to pour in some of their best work into the mix. Ferrell is well, Ferrell and his oblivious and not-as-annoying-as-you-may-think man-child works well against Hart’s snappiness and fast-moving energy and the duo, although, not the most easy-to-love characters, succeed in delivering the laughs.
It’s stupid, funny and rude. It works, almost.
With seventeen novels to his name, it’s fair to say that author, Nicholas Sparks, has enjoyed a decent amount of success, especially since his very first book-to-film adaptation of the super-cheesy Message in a Bottle back in 1999. Nine of his novels have been turned into big Hollywood motion-pictures – including The Notebook and Dear John – and his latest, a disastrous and a painfully predictable attempt at a romantic drama, is the author’s tenth and quite possibly, most damaging of them all.
The story opens with Sophia (Robertson); a young woman looking forward to moving to New York City, where she plans to pursue her dreams of working at an art gallery right after she graduates. Things soon get complicated when - while attending a bull-riding competition of all things - she lays her eyes on Luke Collins (Eastwood); a handsome and a talented bull-rider who is making a return after suffering a major injury a year prior. The two are quick to connect and soon begin to spend more time with one another.
One night, they come across a devastating car accident and after managing to pull an elderly man named Ira Levinson (Alda) - and his box full of old letters – out of the wreck, the film smacks on another layer to the story. Sending us all the way back to WWII, the film shifts its focus to young Ira (Huston) and a beautiful young girl named, Ruth (Chaplin), and begins to follow their romance; a story filled with plenty of heartache and tragedy to keep hardcore Sparks fans amused.
One thing’s for sure; if you’ve seen one Nicholas Sparks movie, you’ve seen them all. Two pretty people fall in love. Their potential happily-ever-after is challenegd by a series of obstacles and hurdles which they need to find the strength to overcome. Tragedy strikes. Tears are jerked. Roll credits.
The Longest Ride is one of author’s weakest entries, it’s a little too predictable and as the tenth book-to-movie adaptation for the celebrated author, there’s nothing to separate it from the pack or make it more relevant or topical. The story jumps back and forth rather awkwardly between the past and the present and there is very little that connects the two periods together, making us think why bother with the timeline to begin with?
On the upside, the leads – although lacking quite a bit of chemistry – are likable and both Eastwood and Robertson bring enough charm and easygoingness – yes, that’s a real word – into the story. However, their pretty faces aren’t enough to save the day; unsurprising and tediously slow, The Longest Ride is a truly a long ride.