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Reviewing the Reviews: 'Lucky You'

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Lucky_lSuppose, just for the sake of argument, that you wanted to see a new movie this weekend that is not Spider-Man 3. That means Lucky You, but is it any good? Well, it’s probably luck of the draw, since the critics can’t seem to agree about anything regarding this movie. Even critics who like the Vegas-set romantic drama with Drew Barrymore (pictured) and Eric Bana find it hard to put their finger on what still bothers them about the film. As Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune writes, “There’s something missing in the movie — that extra lift and surge of feeling that might have made it a minor classic. But Lucky You is maybe the next best thing: a relaxed-looking expert piece that immerses us in another world.” Writes A.O. Scott of the New York Times, “Even though it is sometimes dull and generally thin, there is something winning about the movie’s genial lack of ambition.”

Much of the ambivalence centers on Munich and Hulk star Bana, who seems to have been looking for the right role ever since Hollywood discovered the Aussie actor in Chopper seven years ago.” Bana is amazingly good in the role,” writes William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “He has a charisma that holds the screen with very little effort (which helps in the film’s numerous card-playing scenes), and he totally communicates his character’s drives, frustrations and skill.” Writesthe Worcester [Mass.] Telegram & Gazette’s Dan Kimmel, “Bana makes it work, combining an intensity bordering on obsession with an engaging charm.” Claudia Puig of USA Today says of Bana, “Given his talent (he was exceptional in Munich) and movie-star looks, it’s a wonder the Australian actor isn’t yet on the A-list.”

addCredit(“Lucky You: Merie W. Wallace”)

Others found Bana’s performance too poker-faced. “Bana’sinscrutability suggests he might indeed make an excellent poker player,but his character also shows every sign of being a compulsive gamblerand liar. For some reason (perhaps the black wavy hair), we’re expectedto understand that he’s essentially good-hearted,” writes the Toronto Globe and Mail’sLiam Lacey. “Part of the problem is that Mr. Bana, quick-witted andgood-looking though he is, is an essentially passive, reactive screenpresence,” writes Scott of the Times. Peter Rainer of the Christian Science Monitorwrites, “Bana, who wears his worn, black-leather jacket as if it were asecond skin, is… more compelling as an image than as an actor.” SaysPhoebe Flowers of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “It would help a lot more if he were playing strip poker.”

As the love interest in the movie’s masculine world of poker,Barrymore has a thankless job, the critics note. “The low card here isBarrymore, somewhat awkwardly shoehorned into this boys’ club toprovide some romantic relief,” L.A. Weekly’sScott Foundas writes. “She’s not terrible, but the movie never quitefigures out what to do with her, and the scenes between her and Banalack zest. Like the hard-boiled quickies of Don Siegel and Sam Fullerthat Hanson grew up so enamored of, Lucky You is ultimately a story of honor among men in which everything else is fully expendable.” Writes the Monitor’s Rainer, “Barrymore is never less than charming, but she’s never much more than that, either.”

In the end, the movie’s appeal may depend on whether your as big a fan of filmed poker as director Curtis Hanson is. The Arizona Daily Star’sPhil Villareal writes of Hanson, “He goes three or four steps beyondother mainstream poker films in capturing the details of the game, fromthe intricacies of tournament rules to the way competitors signalvarious plays.” If you’re not a poker fan, then, like Kirk Honeycutt ofThe Hollywood Reporter,“you may never want to see a deck of cards again. The love story andcharacter relationships get shoved to the far reaches of gaming roomsso the camera can lovingly gaze at overturned cards and mounds ofchips.” Kyle Smith of the New York Post puts it most succinctly — “This spring, boredom has a new name: Lucky You.”