Zac Efron is at the point in his career, when he needs to define what type of actor he will be. Will he be a perpetual B-lister with occasional glimpses of talent depending on the other talent surrounding him? Will he be the perpetual pretty-boy until his looks fade along with his career? Or will he be a diverse actor like he potrayed in "Me and Orson Welles" who can express a wide range of believable emotions.


Well, he's taking a shot at the pretty boy spot once again with "The Lucky One" and who knows if he has doomed himself or not.


In case you've been off the planet the last few years, "The Lucky One" is yet another of Nicholas Sparks smarmy novels brought to the big screen. Sparks has become the pulse of the romantic novel genre and has a huge following which he has parlayed into big movie deals.

"Message In a Bottle" got the ball rolling by pulling in a cool $118 million global dollars. "A Walk to Remember" quietly clocked $41 million on an $11 million production budget - and it was judges the worst of the novels!


Then came "The Notebook" which earned $118 million on a $30 million budget. "Nights in Rodanthe" took in $84 million, "The Last Song" grabbed $89 million, and the last one "Dear John" grabbed $114 million on a $20 million budget.


Zac Efron doesn't command a huge salary but has an adequate amount of swooning fans in the proper demographic that he peobably is bankable enough to make this fly onto whatever the next book adaptation is. For Sparks movies, it's a simple matter of plug in actor here, follow book, make money!


Unfortunately, that is exactly what we get with "The Lucky One" - a cookie cutter film.

Efron plays Logan, a Marine on his third tour of duty in Iraq who is ambling along after a firefight when he conveniently looks down and sees a picture of a woman smiling. As he reaches down to pick up the picture, a shell goes off at the exact spot he would have been had he not paused for the picture.


Clearly shell shocked and war-weary he makes up in his mind that this woman saved his life and he must thank her some day.


After returning home, the quest to find her comes sooner than he expected as his adjustment to civilian life doesn't go well. He gets into fights, gets fired from his job and ultimately gets put out by his family. Seems like it's time for a road trip.


Without hardly any clues whatsoever, he tracks down and locates the young lady living in North Carolina - having walked (with his dog Zeus) all the way from Colorado.

As it happens the young lady named Beth (Taylor Schilling) runs a fairly prosperous dog kennel with her mom (Blythe Danner)and is in need of a studly handy man. Oh, what luck that Logan would happen along at that exact moment. More importantly, he is studly enough that she might not have too many more problems with her crazy jealous ex-beau (Jay R. Ferguson) who happens to be the local sheriff.


Will Logan confess why he came or will he just take advantage of the situation. With the exception of Danner, most of the performances are as stiff as a hard cover Nicholas Sparks book, so you really don't care. Unless you are a devout Sparks fan or devout Efron fan (it there is such a thing).


"The Lucky One" has one strong point, and that is it's relatively short run time of a little over one and a half hours. It would take a lot of gullibility to believe that so many lucky things could actually happen to one person.   -- GEOFF BURTON