Efron impressive in 'Lucky One'

TAYLOR SCHILLING as Beth and ZAC EFRON as Logan in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow...

TAYLOR SCHILLING as Beth and ZAC EFRON as Logan in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' romantic drama "THE LUCKY ONE" a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

The title of The Lucky One is bittersweet, which is appropriate for yet another best-selling Nicholas Sparks novel fashioned into big-screen comfort food.

The Lucky One is the seventh Sparksian saga to be made into a movie, with The Notebook, Message in a Bottle and Dear John ranking at the top of his personal boxoffice list.

Sparks is not just a successful novelist, he is an industry, his own genre.

His mix of angst, tragedy, hurt, healing and romance -- not to mention glistening wet bodies ready for sensuous love-making in some stories -- is hugely popular. Especially with female readers and movie-goers.

The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron in an unlikely yet satisfying role as the hero, fits the mould. It is aimed directly at women who want their romantic stories to be realistic and look as ordinary as they are extraordinary. In other words, Sparks' secret is that he taps into primal urges and makes readers and viewers feel better about life, even when there are tragedies.

One of the surprises of The Lucky One is just how mature, contained and thoughtful Efron is in the title role. He plays a U.S. Marine who is "the lucky one" because he makes it back alive, with all limbs intact, after three harrowing tours of duty in Iraq. He has seen friends die -- and so do we in the movie's opening sequences.

Efron is staggered that his own live was saved by chance or fate when he strolled a few metres away to pick up a photograph lost in the dust by another soldier. A bomb kills the man who had been sitting beside him. Back in the States, wracked by survivor guilt, Efron goes on a cross-country journey to find himself and the woman of his broken dreams.

The charismatic Schilling, playing the owner-operator of a Louisiana dog kennel, is Efron's salvation. And he is hers. Melodrama and sappy music envelope all. Some viewers may find themselves laughing out loud at the overwrought (if tame) sex scenes.

Yet, at its core, there is something compelling and more complicated here. Efron is surprisingly up to the task of conveying this humanity. His performance is powerful and contained. He is often silent and yet he still communicates.

By the end, we see Efron has come-of-age as both an actor and character. Women -- not just teenaged fans -- will love him for it.

This film is rated PG


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