As one might expect of a movie based on Nicholas Sparks material (The Last Song, A Walk to Remember), The Lucky One is predictable kitsch in the pop romantic vein. Heartthrob Zac Efron (High School Musical, New Year's Eve) steps into the role of Logan Thibault, a Marine sergeant whose life is spared in an Iraq war zone when he picks up a photograph, narrowly avoiding death as a bomb goes off.
After a third tour of duty, Logan returns to his family in Colorado, where a couple of ham-handed sequences — like putting his kid brother in a death grip after being awaken — show he’s suffering from postwar stress. With his loyal dog at his side – and after a bit of intrepid online research — Logan hits the road on foot in search of the pretty blonde woman in the picture.
When he reaches his destination in rural Louisiana, Logan makes contact with Beth (Taylor Schilling), a wholesome-looking sort who is divorced, runs a kennel and has a precocious moppet for a son. Beth senses – correctly – that something is off about this stranger. Her grandmother (Blythe Danner) on the other hand, thinks the strapping young man is the bee’s knees and hires Logan to help out. This leads to montages that show his facility at fixing just about everything – from broken engines to broken hearts - and managing to be just about everywhere all the time. When he’s not repairing gutters, hauling branches or tending to the pooches, Logan is talking long walks in the picturesque outdoors.
Impressed by how well he gets along with her son, Beth eventually warms up to Logan. But the romance that ensues doesn’t sit well with Beth’s ex-husband, a jealous, controlling, walking cartoon of a police officer who doesn't approve of his son hanging around the new guy.
Both the lovemaking and the threats from the bitter dad lack heat. Despite its weak material, The Lucky One might have worked better if Efron conveyed even a glimmer of charisma. Casting him as a soldier suffering from PTSD doesn’t merely stretch credulity – it renders the conceit unbelievable. And multiple lukewarm makeout sessions between Beth and Logan don’t add any credibility to their burgeoning romance. This is desperate stuff, less entertaining than wearying. One can sense Sparks ticking off each box of a formula on the way to a cynically contrived final act that allows Logan and Beth to live happily ever after.