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A Timeless Tale 

And by that we mean: a mediocre book becomes an awful movie.

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Nicholas Sparks writes love stories — mushy novels filled with longing and sentiment and, often, death by drowning. And they sell! Some of them have been turned into movies, for which his fans line up, buy tickets, watch, and sob. And they’re hits! The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe, etc.

The Lucky One is about a Marine (Zac Efron) who, stationed in Iraq, finds a photo of a woman that turns out to be a lucky charm. When he returns to the States, he develops thoughts of thanking her. He doesn’t know her name or where she lives, so he walks from Colorado to Louisiana and, yup, just up and finds her. She’s a single mom with an “adorable” moppet kid and a beer-swilling ex-husband cop with a hair-trigger temper on top of a jealous streak.

OK, now I know that a book is a book and a movie is a movie, and there are always going to be some changes. And by now, Sparks fans also accept that. But maybe not this time.

Sappy and manipulative and brimming with not-very-believable prose to begin with, the film has been poorly altered, with major ingredients left out, new ones tossed in, and plotlines lackadaisically changed around.

Yes, I read the book, and it was a slog, even for my feminine side. But I was kind of angry at what it’s been turned it into.

The Marine is Logan. He finds Beth (Taylor Schilling). He settles down in Louisiana but can’t get around to admitting why he’s there. Neither can he get along with her foul-tempered ex, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) who, hiding behind that gun and badge, despises this new guy. There’s also Grandma (Blythe Danner) and Zeus the dog, who has been given short shrift here. He’s the most heroic character in the book. Now he’s relegated to being simply the good doggy.

Efron is OK, in a one-note performance way. Schilling is flat, bland, doesn’t give her character any appeal. Danner has some nice comic relief and voice-of-reason moments. Ferguson plays it too broad, veering into caricature. I saw it with a crowd of regular moviegoers. There was a tentative kissing scene. The audience snickered. There was an extremely chaste sex scene. The audience laughed, derisively. There was a “moppet in peril” scene. I can’t bring myself to reveal what the audience did with that one. But I’m sure it wasn’t what the author or the filmmakers hoped for.

THE LUCKY ONE
Rated PG-13
Directed by Scott Hicks
Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner

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