As a tourism advertisement for Louisiana, where filming took place, The Lucky One
makes the most of a scenic state. As an opportunity for Zac Efron (High School Musical
) to prove his acting mettle, it's less successful. On his third tour of duty in Iraq, Efron's Sgt. Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a pretty blonde that reads "keep safe" on the back. After a series of close scrapes, he credits his survival to the memento. Upon his release, Logan retrieves his German shepherd and sets out for North Carolina (it's never clear how he figures that out as a destination). When he finds Beth (Taylor Schilling), who runs a kennel with her grandmother (Blythe Danner), he doesn't know how to tell her about the picture, so he takes a job working with the dogs, and befriends her son (Riley Thomas Stewart), a chess prodigy, while inspiring jealousy in her hotheaded ex-husband, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson, who looks more like a marine than Efron). The climactic storm at the end provides the opportunity for Logan to come clean and for Keith to prove he isn't a complete loser, allowing romance to bloom between the central couple. In drawing from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, Shine
's Scott Hicks offers a picture-postcard romance that feels too much like a Lifetime movie. Though Efron, who made a stronger impression in Me and Orson Welles
, never overacts, his recessive performance renders Logan more opaque than necessary. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Zac Efron stars in this romantic drama based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. US Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Efron) returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq clutching a photograph of a woman he has never met, which he has come to see as the good luck charm that has kept him alive. After some investigation he learns that the woman's name is Beth (Taylor Schilling), finds out where she lives and ends up getting a job at the kennels run by her family. Despite Beth's initial skepticism and various obstacles in her life, the two gradually become closer, leading Logan to hope that Beth could become far more to him than just a good luck charm.