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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.7%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 25.93%

4 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Lucky Ones, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

1 stars

For the most part, when you sit down to watch an ordinary bad movie (I am not counting blatant junk like those “’Blank’ Movie” spoofs or the “Prom Night” remake), you can usually figure out what kind of story the filmmakers were trying to tell and what point they were trying to make in the end, even if they failed to actually those things for themselves. Every once in a while, however, a bad movie comes along that is so confused and so bewildering that all you can really do is just sit there in your seat and wonder what the filmmakers could have possibly been thinking or what possible point they could have been trying to get across. As you can probably surmise, “The Lucky Ones” is a film that falls painfully into the latter category. It is the latest attempt to bring the concerns of the Iraqi War to the big screen, an endeavor that has resulted in a couple of great movies (such as Brian De Palma’s harrowing “Redacted” and Nick Broomfield’s “Battle For Haditha”), a few noble efforts (“Lions for Lambs” and “Stop-Loss”) and several outright disasters (“In the Valley of Elah,” “Home of the Brave” and the unspeakable “Grace is Gone”), but this particular effort is so head-scratchingly screwy that there is a very good chance that it may be the worst of the lot--a muddled mess that seems to have been created not because it has something to say about the war and those who are out there fighting it but to answer the theoretically unanswered question “What would the results be if you tried tossing “The Best Years of our Lives, “Coming Home” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” into a blender and set the speed for Indigestible Comedy-Melodrama?”

The film opens with three soldiers who are traveling back home to America after the completing their tours of duty in Iraq that left them wounded in the process. Colee (Rachel McAdams) is an eternally cheerful and optimistic type, despite a wounded leg that oozes blood whenever it is dramatically convenient, who is heading to Vegas unannounced to present the parents of her late boyfriend (who saved her life in battle) with his prized guitar and hopefully score a place to stay for the next 30 days until her next tour begins. TK (Michael Pena) is also heading for the West Coast in order to see his fiancée before he ships out again but since his wound has left him temporarily impotent, he is more concerned with alleviating that condition before seeing her again. Cheever (Tim Robbins), on the other hand, is an older reservist who is now out of the Army for good and ready to reunite with his wife and son in St Louis and restart his old life. Alas, when they land in New York, they discover that a massive blackout has scuttled all of their connecting flights and so they manage to grab the last remaining rental car in the airport so that Cheever can get to St. Louis and the other two can pick up a flight from there. This, of course, allows the trio to get to know one another and bond over roadside mishaps and bar fights that develop when some snotty college girls make fun of Colee’s limp.

Alas, things go south when Cheever is reunited with his wife (Molly Hagan) and, with Colee and TK literally sitting in the next room, she immediately informs him that he wants a divorce. If that weren’t enough, he also learns in quick succession that his son has been accepted into Stanford and needs $20,000 in tuition money in three weeks and that the job he was counting on returning to no longer exists. With his life in ruins, Cheever decides to drive on with Colee and TK to Vegas and along the way, they have a series of misadventures involving a visit to a mega-church (where Colee ingratiates them to the entire congregation by telling them about the personal woes of her comrades) that segues into bizarre bedroom farce and an encounter with a group of friendly traveling prostitutes whose offer to help cure TK of his problem is thwarted by, of all things, a giant tornado. Finally, the trio arrives at Vegas and each one splits off to their respective destinies--Colee to the parents of the ne’er-do-well that she has been defending to the others to return a guitar that just happens to be worth $20,000, TK to decide whether he should return to his girlfriend or follow Cheever’s suggestion to leave the military altogether and grab the first plane for Canada and Cheever to wander the streets of Vegas looking for a way in which a guy down on his luck can make $20,000 in a hurry.

The last few years have seen a large number of Iraq-themed film going belly-up at the box-office, mostly because it seems that American audiences have been unwilling to pay money to see the same things that they can see at any time on the 24-hour news channels. (Of course, the fact that many of them haven’t been very good hasn’t helped matters much either) . As a result, “The Lucky Ones” feels like a cynical attempt to avoid the box-office fate of those earlier films by wrapping its story of soldiers returning home to newly uncertain lives within the parameters of that most beloved of screen subgenres--the wacky road trip movie--in order to bring in viewers who wouldn‘t ordinarily come to a film that even slightly touches on the subject of the war in Iraq. Of course, as the monstrous “Grace is Gone” proved last year, this particular approach isn’t exactly a sure thing from an artistic standpoint either and co-writers Neil Burger (who also directed, his follow-up to the surprise 2006 hit “The Illusionist”) and Dirk Wittenborn fail to do anything with it either. Instead of giving us a provocative look at soldiers trying to readjust after life in combat, it seems more interested in giving us wildly inappropriate moments of alleged comedy (such as the bar brawl and the weird bit in which Cheever almost becomes involved in a strange ménage a trois), ham-handed narratives contrivances and revelations (such as the various secrets that we learn about Colee’s late boyfriend) and stuff like the tornado and the traveling hookers that is just so bizarre that all we can do is simply shake our heads and wonder what they could have possibly been thinking. From start to finish, there is not one single scene on display here that contains even a smidgen of reality--everything has the overly processed feel of the product of an especially useless screenwriting manual that eschews originality for elements that can be easily traced back to other successful movies.

What makes “The Lucky Ones” even more grotesque is the sight of watching three talented actors gamely trying to play along with a screenplay that has given them virtually nothing to do except serve as pawns for a patently unbelievable story. Rachel McAdams, making her first appearance on the big screen in a couple of years, is an enormously appealing presence but not even she can begin to make her character seem remotely believable for a second and her relentless perky demeanor gets so annoying after a while that you begin to suspect that she might have actually been the target of friendly fire. As the soldier who literally lost his manhood in combat, Michael Pena is stuck playing the kind of walking cliché that you had probably assumed had been retired from the genre a long time ago and he is unable to do anything with it either. Furthermore, his late-inning conflict over whether to report for duty or ditch the service for good makes absolutely no sense for his character and nothing that he does even comes close to making those scenes seem remotely plausible. Ironically, Tim Robbins comes across as both the best and the worst of the lead actors--the best because he comes the closest to finding the occasional glimmer of human truth amidst all the clichés on display in the screenplay and the worst because you can’t imagine what an award-winning actor-writer-director could have possibly seen in said screenplay when he signed on.

“The Lucky Ones” is a complete mess from start to finish--the attempt to blend the serious problems faced by returning soldiers are at constant odds with the inexplicably jolly tone of the material and the story points that seem to have come straight out of a painfully earnest sitcom. Hell, I can’t even excuse it as some kind of noble effort gone horribly wrong because I have no idea of what it was trying to do or say in the first place other than try to position itself as the first feel-good movie inspired by the war in Iraq. Look, our soldiers have endured plenty of mistreatment over the last few years--inadequate armor, extended tours of duty and a criminally mismanaged combat plan that has killed too many of them for no good reasons. All that a film as hollow, manipulative and idiotic as this one does for them is add artistic insult to their real-world injuries.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17380&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/26/08 00:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/11/13 william stage we have this on blue ray we lovethesese movies 5 stars
1/11/09 Shaun Wallner This movie stinks!! 1 stars
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  26-Sep-2008 (R)
  DVD: 27-Jan-2009


  DVD: 27-Jan-2009

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