John Travolta's career rises up and down like a sine curve. Every once in a while, he has a string of big hits, then crests, and releases a bunch of turkeys that bring him into negative territory. Then he has some more hits and comes back in the favor of the public. Currently, he is somewhere at the bottom. In some ways, with movies like Battlefield Earth and to a lesser degree, The General's Daughter, there is not much further to go. And to think, a couple years ago, Travolta was in Pulp Fiction and Get Shorty. Lucky Numbers not only lowers expectations for Travolta, it also does the same for director Nora Ephron and Lisa Kudrow. Kudrow (Analyze This, Hanging Up) is also going on a downward spiral, but her's is much slower. She currently holds the title as the Friend who can pick good roles in good movies, and even with this movie, she still far outpaces the others. Ephron's efforts usually center around touchy-feely movies like You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and Hanging Up. There is no sense of warmth or charm here.
It seems that Harrisburg TV weatherman Russ Richards (Travolta) has David Letterman-like aspirations and wants to host a gameshow. However, where Letterman has talent, Richards comes off as annoying. He is the local hero with is own table at Denny's. To continue the math analogy, he also wastes money faster than the limit of 1/n goes to zero. His latest venture is a snowmobile dealership which is failing because of a prolonged heatwave (get it? He's a weatherman). Richards needs money fast, and eventually dreams up a plan to rig the state lottery (Lucky Numbers is based on an actual incident in 1980) with the help of local lottery girl Crystal (Kudrow). The two will plan the entire thing and sneak off with the earnings, no one the wiser. Nothing goes as planned. At every opportunity, something goes wrong, forcing Richards and Crystal to improvise. As they revise their plans, they promise more of their money away and get into more trouble. Screenwriter Adam Resnick (Cabin Boy) aimed for dark comedy, but everything here falls flat.
The important thing that Resnick forgot is that stupidity does not equal comedy. Every character in Lucky Numbers is an idiot. They are not funny and they are not clever. They are selfish and shallow, and watching them is nearly painful. Even a veteran actor like Tim Roth (The Legend of 1900, Rob Roy) has a role that reduces his abilities. Michael Moore (EdTV, Roger & Me) is horrible as Crystal's stupid cousin, the man Richards originally wanted to buy the rigged ticket. The only actors worth watching are Bill Pullman (Brokedown Palace, Lake Placid) and Daryl Mitchell (Galaxy Quest, 10 Things I Hate About You), who pay a lazy cop and his partner (they don't show up until near the end). The movie is just people trying to get more money from each other. There are no 'good' guys to root for; everybody is bad. The closest person would be Richards, but his overwhelming desire for money makes him quite unpalatable. Lucky Numbers is supposedly based in the 1980s, but Ephron and crew forgot the replace the new nineties logos of K-mart and Denny's with the older eighties ones. She also has Travolta drinking from bottle water. It's perfectly normal today, but back then? No.
|Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.|
|1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated R for language, sexuality, some drug use, and brief violence.|
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