The new romance "The Lucky One," starring Zac Efron as a weary Marine and Taylor Schilling as a beautiful stranger, is the latest in a line of film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks' weepy novels. (In case you've forgotten, the list includes "Dear John," "The Last Song" and most famously "The Notebook.") As is often the case with Sparks' movies and their imitators (including "The Vow" earlier this year), critics agree that "The Lucky One" is a tear-jerker best left to hard-core romance fans.
In one of the more positive reviews, the Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey calls "The Lucky One" a "sweet but not too syrupy romance" and "the best Sparks-inspired film to come along since 'The Notebook.' " It's certainly not perfect: "Without much tension, the film becomes more of an extended music video of Logan and Beth's [Efron and Schilling's characters] rocky road to love," Sharkey writes. But the film is "beautifully captured by director of photography Alar Kivilo," she says, while Efron is "in his wheelhouse," Schilling is "moving," and director Scott Hicks "keeps 'The Lucky One' from turning into complete mush."
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday is less impressed and describes the film as a "tepid, inert enterprise." "The Lucky One," she continues, is "devoid of genuine tension, conflict or combustible chemistry between its two stars," and "just prettily sits there." So does Efron, for that matter: "The role of a stoic, expressionless philosopher-soldier requires that he tamp down his natural exuberance and physical grace, a regrettable misuse of his native talents." Invoking "The Notebook," Hornaday concludes that "'The Lucky One' tries hard to re-bottle that lightning, to no avail."