LIKE a tried and tested chocolate cake recipe, prolific romance author Nicholas Sparks has his weepie formula refined. It has almost become a genre of its own.
In The Lucky One the cast may have changed, the storyline slightly different but its essence is the same.
Here we have another strong and stoic loner (Zac Efron), another troubled Southern Belle (Taylor Schilling), a large serving of melodrama and throw in a third-act death and viola, serve with a side of tissues.
Efron stars as US Marine Logan who escapes death whilst in Iraq, putting his survival down to his lucky charm, a photo of a mysterious unknown beauty.
Upon his return to the States he vows to track down the stranger and thank her for saving his life.
It is supposed to be the role Efron proves once and for all that his High School Musical days are behind him and he is a serious actor who isn't all sweetness and boyish charms.
He's even got a new bulked up body and stubble to prove it.
Unfortunately Efron takes the strong, stoic solider stereotype far too literally and overacts the role within every inch of its life.
Or should that be under acts since he is as wooden as the trees he stands amongst.
There is no emotion behind his beautifully long eye lashed eyes nor expression on his chiseled face.
There is a hint of so much more in Logan's character but with Efron at the helms that is all it is.
In saying that, when he is concentrating on the melancholy loverboy arch of the film he is far more convincing, you might not be able to quite gage the anguish he feels as a returned solider but you can sense the affection his character has for the girl he loves.
And he and Schilling have real chemistry.
When they are gazing into each other's eyes or caressing each other's bodies you forget the film's flaws and can't help be swept up in the romance of it all.
Blythe Danner as the feisty grandmother is superb and sparkles with zest whenever she is on screen and provides some light hearted fun.
Cinematically it is a gorgeous looking film.
Director Scott Hicks is an artist as he embraces the saccharine tone and delights in small beautiful moments, painting the screen in soft-focus montages and dabbled sunlight.
As a romance the film works but as serious post-war drama it falls over with faded clichés that not even Efron's ripping muscles can save.
The Lucky One
- Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner
- Director: Scott Hicks
- Rated: M
- Verdict: Three stars