Lucky You (2007)

Better than average

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on May 10, 2007 in Fayetteville Free Weekly.

I don't think I believed the movie Lucky You, but I sort of enjoyed it.

A caveat: I enjoy watching poker on ESPN. If you don't, this movie will bore you.

Set in Las Vegas, Lucky You is a relationship movie, but that damned poker keeps getting in the way. And those damned relationships keep getting in the way of the poker.

Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) is an aggressive player at the table, but in his personal life, he avoids commitment. Yawn.

Into his life come two forces that goad him to change. One is Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), a novice singer who comes from Bakersfield, Calif., to Las Vegas to pursue a career.

The other goader is Huck's father L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), a poker legend whose selfish treatment of Huck's late mother and Huck has wounded the young man emotionally.

It all comes down to a very questionable climax. Has anyone in the history of poker ever done what Huck decides to do?

Lucky You is not as ridiculous as Two for the Money (2005), but it is shaky.

Director Curtis Hanson is caught in no-man's land, letting his feminine side trump his better instincts.

Hanson, a former movie critic, previously directed the outstanding L.A. Confidential (1997) and the worthy 8 Mile (2002) with Eminem and Wonder Boys (2000). But his last movie was the chick flick In Her Shoes (2005).

It's quite a fall from In Her Pants to In Her Shoes.

The screenplay for Lucky You was written by Hanson and Eric Roth. Roth, who wrote The Good Shepherd and Munich, specializes in dullness.

Hanson and Roth write a wonderful opening scene of Huck in a pawn shop, but nothing in the rest of the film equals the wit and credibility of that opening scene.

When Hanson and Roth get philosophical, it's embarrassing. They give Drew Barrymore some cringe-worthy lines such as, "You know what I think? I think everyone's just trying not to be lonely."

If I wanted drivel, I'd just listen to Elisabeth on TV's The View. Maybe Hanson does.

Lucky You has too much poker even for me. The main problem with the poker is that it is not effective dramatically. It's strung out.

One often can predict what card will come up. There are a few surprises, but very few. And there's no momentum built up in the various games. A king - no surprise. An 8. No kidding.

Lucky You plays down the poker brats that normally trash the ESPN venues. Poker moron Mike Matasow has no lines, which is a blessing.

The two poker brats in Lucky You are a loudmouthed, young punk from online and a sullen slug who never congratulates other players. But these two are negligible characters.

The cast battles with their roles. Australian Eric Bana, who plays the poker hotshot Huck, is a good actor who lacks just one kilowatt of star power, but that one kilowatt keeps him limited.

If Hanson wanted to stay on the cutting edge, he could have cast poker personality Huck Seed as Huck Cheever. But then he probably couldn't have gotten the movie made.

Drew Barrymore is appealing as Billie. Debra Messing is wasted as her older sister. Messing trained to become a mermaid in a tank at one of the casinos, but all that footage wound up cut.

Robert Duvall is effective as the raffish L.C. Cheever. One of the all-time credits is that Duvall has a hair stylist. I challenge viewers to try and figure out what he did.

In Lucky You, director Hanson refuses to go "all in," and winds up playing with a dwindling pile of chips.

Hanson is trying to market a concept that may be unmarketable -- a chick flick poker film.

On the river, Hanson folds under pressure.


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