Lucky Break: Paul Chedlow
Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 03, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Lucky Break

Current Status
In Season
109 minutes
Wide Release Date
James Nesbitt, Olivia Williams, Christopher Plummer, Timothy Spall
Peter Cattaneo
Paramount Pictures
Ronan Bennett
Mystery and Thriller, Comedy

We gave it an D+

On the plus side of Lucky Break, a negligible British comedy about a couple of small-stuff convicts who mastermind a jailhouse bust-out, nobody dances or shows his mealy British butt. On the minus side, every porridgy inmate in this instantly forgettable romp warbles in the prison’s amateur musical, and one of them demonstrates a rather extreme devotion to the tomatoes he grows in the on-site greenhouse.

Luck, let’s say, runs thin for Peter Cattaneo, who directs broadly, hoping to re-create the success of his feature debut, ”The Full Monty,” with the less attention-grabbing screenplay of Ronan Bennett: It takes more than a song and a bit o’ light class warfare for a Britcom to stand out among the post-”Monty” generation of imports, and ”Lucky Break” runs out of ideas once the gents squabble in anger-management class. Irish actor James Nesbitt makes a subdued leading-man debut as the genial ringleader, surrounded by more recognizable character actors, including Timothy Spall (”Topsy-Turvy”) and Christopher Plummer as the theatrical-minded prison warden.

And for a spot of romance, rosy-cheeked Olivia Williams skitters about as some sort of smooch-worthy correctional facility do-gooder. I used to think the toughs in ”Oz” were the only cons with such regular, up-close access to women pretty enough to be actresses, but apparently every slammer employs a house sweetheart in entertainment’s enhanced penal system.

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