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WGUC Reviews

Lucky You

Lucky You
Warner Brothers
Rated PG-13
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas

If you've ever said that one of the dullest things to do is watch golf on television, then you haven't watched poker games recreated for a movie. That's the main flaw with Lucky You, supposedly a character-driven relationship story that's stopped dead in its tracks more than once with lengthy hands of poker while the participants fondle their stacks of chips.

Eric Bana, star of The Hulk and Munich, plays Huck… and yes, it's short for "Huckleberry" - a professional poker player who spends his waking hours gathering a stake, playing games, and losing all his money. He is the son of Robert Duvall, a two-time winner of the World Series of Poker, and a very successful player. Already we know he's living in his father's shadow, and even his name indicates he's a little boy who never grew up.

Huck meets up with Billie, a naive woman from Bakersfield who has more charm than any one person should be allowed. Drew Barrymore, who, as usual, is also quite charming, plays Billie, the sister of one of Huck's acquaintances. She also has enough money to stake him to some poker.

Those characters are the basic set up for the human dynamics, and they're fairly interesting. In addition to the principals, the supporting cast is peopled with characters like Charles Martin Smith, Robert Downey Jr., Jean Smart, and Debra Messing. Many of the tournament players are real-life poker champs, some of whom seem as if they might have their own interesting stories.

The problem is that, with very few exceptions, poker is just not a compelling spectator sport. The progression of the people part of the story hits a stop-stick every time a lengthy poker game comes along. And there are several. The ending is pretty much a given, but still manages one last surprise. The script has several good lines, and it's too bad some of these lesser characters couldn't have been more fully explored.

Directed by the talented Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), the film looks good and is classy, but is too long by at least twenty minutes.

Barrymore and Bana are fine, and work well together. Duvall is one of those screen legends who can just show up and make a film interesting, which he does once again. A couple of his scenes are real grabbers.

Lucky You brought back memories of The Hustler, Robert Rossen's classic 1961 film about pool with Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott. It was darker, and more downbeat, but it had the right mix of people and pool. The viewer was given enough information to really know the characters, while being treated to some thrilling pool action, and some of the best cinematography to ever grace a movie screen.

Lucky You has enough going for it that it's not hard to take, but it's just nothing special. However, considering the current crop of clunkers being churned out by the corporate movie factories, that doesn't sound like it's necessarily a bad thing.


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