The Lucky One


Directed by Scott Hicks. Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Jay R Ferguson, Blythe Danner 12A cert, general release, 110 min

ZAC EFRON is Logan, a damned fine Marine (stop sniggering down the back; he’s not so bad) who returns to Colorado following a third and final tour of duty in Iraq. Back on the frontline Logan once dug a photo of a pretty blonde girl out of the rubble, a photo he believes kept him safe and delivered him home.

The lighthouse behind her provides enough of a clue to lead the young soldier to balmy Louisiana. But a misunderstanding leaves Logan employed at her family-run dog kennel. The photo remains in his quarters, as a prepossessing shotgun over the mantle for later in the movie.

As Efron is the hero in a Nicolas Sparks adaptation, Logan soon proves his worth as a sack lifter, piano player, interior decorator, chess gamer, pooper scooper, violin teacher, tractor mechanic, amateur psychologist, boat fixer-upper and gentle ersatz dad. Beth (Taylor Schilling) – of course she’s called Beth – is initially suspicious but soon grows fond of the endlessly capable blue-eyed handyman.

Sadly, Beth is still mourning her brother who, unlike Logan, did not make it home from the Gulf. Her vulnerability makes her an easy target for her thick-necked good ’ol boy ex-husband (Jay R Ferguson). Will he put a stop to Beth and Logan’s many musical montages and sunshine-dappled forest walks among friendly, chirping insects?

Nicolas Sparks’s cosy, Christian- friendly (though crucially not overtly religious) books have sold around 23 trillion copies. Sparks didn’t get that popular by reinventing the wheel; he became popular because his stories pivot around simple wish-fulfilment, lovely cushions and men who like to cuddle.

In this spirit, The Lucky One is handsomely staged and pleasingly fluffy. Efron does his strong, silent thing. Schilling displays all the range – blonde, winsome – one might expect from the woman who played Dagny in last year’s expectedly hilarious adaptation of Atlas Shrugged.

As Sparks adaptations go, it’s better than Dear John, A Walk to Remember or Message in a Bottle, though it’s some way off The Notebook. What we have here, readers, is a middleweight Sparks movie fit to stand toe-to-toe with Nights in Rodanthe and The Last Song.

What do mean you haven’t seen that many Sparks movies?