The Lucky One is the seventh movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book — two more are in preproduction — and, well, it's no Notebook. In fact, it's the most leaden of the bunch.
Zac Efron stars as U.S. Marine Sgt. Logan Thibault, who's on his third tour of Iraq as the film opens. After a firefight, Logan is resting by a truck when something in the dirt catches his eye: a photo of a pretty girl standing near a lighthouse. Just as Logan walks over to pick it up, a mortar round blows up his truck. Close call! That photo becomes Logan's lucky charm, and when his tour ends, he sets out to find the girl.
Faster than you can say Google, Logan locates the lighthouse in Louisiana and soon enough is shaking hands with Beth (Taylor Schilling), his blond talisman. Love stories of this type are all about failed communication, and so it is that before he can explain about the photo, Beth has mistaken Logan for a job applicant and hired him to work at the gorgeous, farm-like pet kennel she runs with the grandmother who raised her (Blythe Danner). Lust does eventually win out, Efron's shirt finally (!) comes off, and he and Schilling feign PG-13 ecstasy.
But no amount of back arching can make us believe there's real heat rising between these two.
Onscreen chemistry between actors is a mysterious thing — 100 years into cinema, it remains the one story element that Hollywood can't fake.