You know, the smallest thing can change your life, and to find the light, you must pass through the deepest darkness. And if you want more Hallmarky platitudes - lots more - proceed to The Lucky One, the latest screen adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks romance in which fate, destiny, and sage cliches whirl together in a sugar crash of meaningful moments and tasteful eroticism.
Speaking of explosions, The Lucky One begins in Iraq, where Logan, a solemn, stalwart Marine played by a buff Zac Efron, finds a photograph in the dusty rubble. It's of a smiling, radiant woman, and as Logan catches sight of it in a ray of light and moves towards it, everything blows up where he had just been standing. The photo saved his life, if you believe in things like that. Bestselling-scribe Sparks certainly does, and so too, apparently, do Will Fetters and Scott Hicks, the film's writer and director, respectively.
Eight months later, Logan is back home in Colorado, jumpy at the crack and pop of his nephews' video games. He does some Google detective work, identifying a lighthouse in the photograph's background, figuring out it's a place in Louisiana. And so he and his trusty German shepherd head there - on foot.
"I like to walk," Logan says, interviewing for a job at a kennel (good thing he likes dogs) run by the beautiful Beth (Taylor Schilling), who, yes, is the woman in the picture. Only, Logan can't find the right words to explain that he didn't simply wander into town. He hides the snapshot beneath a book in the old cabin he fixes up and rents out. He goes to work for Beth, who is divorced, with a curly-headed boy. At first, she's cautious about Logan, but her grandma (a plucky Blythe Danner) sure isn't. She knows a keeper when she sees one. Especially when he strips off his shirt to fix stuff around the house.
Of course, there are obstacles. Beth's creepy ex, the town sheriff (Jay R. Ferguson), wants back in the marriage, and he's suspicious of this stranger who can quote poetry, and who can play chess with his son. And there's that photograph - the longer Logan waits to 'fess up, the more it becomes a secret that could torpedo the relationship. What is he doing with that picture of me? How did he come by it? Is he a psycho, a stalker?
Efron, who wears an "All glory is fleeting" tattoo on his back and a soulful look on his face, gets to be more of a grown-up in The Lucky One than in most of what he's done before, although he still seems callow in the company of the toothy, sun-streaming-through-her-hair Schilling. The actress casts moony eyes in Efron's direction with conviction, and goes through the various stages of a Sparks heroine (hurt, happiness, hurt, happiness, let's rip off some clothes and get down) with similar attention to the task.
And speaking of tasks, for some folks, who prefer their love stories slathered in syrup, The Lucky One won't seem like a task at all.