Sep 29, 2014

Review: Lucky Numbers (2000)

Nora Ephron is pretty much hit or miss. She has some stinkers like Mixed Nuts and Bewitched but also some movies that I personally liked such as Julie & Julia and You've Got Mail. Lucky Numbers is the only movie she's directed that she didn't also do the screenplay. I'm not sure if that really changes anything, but that honour goes to Adam Resnick.

Who's Adam Resnick? Basically starting out as a writer for late night shows like Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, he got Lucky Numbers as his first feature movie gig. The key point here for me is that the next movie he did the screenplay for was Death to Smoochy which is a personal favourite of mine as far as black comedies go. I was hoping for the same kind of thing with Lucky Numbers.


Genre: comedy, crime
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Produced by: Sean Daniel, Nora Ephron, Jonathan D. Krane, etc.
Written by: Adam Resnick
Music by: George Fenton
Running time: 105 minutes
Production company: Paramount Pictures, StudioCanal, Krane Entertainment, etc.
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, Bac Films, Tobis StudioCanal, etc.
Country: United States, France
Language: English
Budget: $63,000,000
Box office: $10,890,222 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed O'Neill, Michael Rapaport, Daryl Mitchell, Bill Pullman, Richard Schiff, Michael Moore, Sam McMurray, Michael Weston, Maria Bamford, Caroline Aaron, John F. O'Donohue, Colin Mochrie



It's the 1980's and Russ Richards (John Travolta) has it all. He's the weatherman on a local TV station and is pretty much a celebrity. He's got a reserved parking space and booth at his favourite diner and everybody adores him. He's in a bit of a financial bind though because of some ill-advised investments. He gets mixed up with Gig (Tim Roth) who specializes in getting things done. The master plan they come up with involves rigging the state lottery with the help of "ball girl" Crystal (Lisa Kudrow). 


The premise of Lucky Numbers seems pretty good to me. Sadly, it doesn't take long for things to devolve with a whole slew of problems. Lucky Numbers is a black comedy but in truth it barely qualifies. The film is devoid of any laughs and Adam Resnick seems too afraid to really go beyond his ankles into any real "blackness." It's unbelievably and disappointingly wishy-washy when you compare it to Death to Smoochy which at times hit you real hard with how dark it went. There are some scenes that seem to be kind of up there in so called darkness but never truly commit. Usually these scenes are followed up with a more light-hearted scene right after which spoil things even further. It's just frustrating watching Lucky Numbers because it had promise.

John Travolta's acting has to be mentioned here, because boy is it painful to watch. His character is supposed to be high-strung and jittery, but Travolta takes this into orbit with how high he goes and not in a good way at all. His acting is so obvious and he just seems to be fighting the material. When acting shows it's never a good thing and when you look at his performance alongside a guy like Tim Roth you can't help but cringe. 

There's a slew of other characters besides Russ, Gig and Crystal but not a single one of them are really that interesting. All the characters in Lucky Numbers seems like a collection of caricatures that walk in and out of the picture. Bill Pullman as the lazy Detective Pat Lakewood is probably the best of the bunch with the pitiful Michael Moore character Dale at the bottom. (Spoilers) Thank God Dale is a minor character and is gone pretty quick. The same can't be said for Lisa Kudrow's character who plays the attractive, manipulating but ditzy psycho. She's grating and unfortunately a main character, so she's there to the end. (End Spoilers)

It's hard to tell what kind of movie Lucky Numbers is. There's no way I can call this a black comedy though because it's just too afraid to commit when it comes to actually being black. I guess it's a grey comedy for how lifeless and flat it is. Nora Ephron came out OK despite the bomb that Lucky Numbers was when it was released but it's a different story for Adam Resnick. With Death to Smoochy bombing just as badly as LN, he's never written a screenplay for a feature again.



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