MGM // 2004 // 78 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 27th, 2005
Abbey's the one. She just doesn't know it.
Why, Lorelai, why?
Zach Baker (Brad Hunt, Magnolia, Mulholland Falls) has got a problem: Abbey (Lauren Graham, Gilmore Girls, Bad Santa), the girl-next-door whom Zach's been in love with his whole life, has just announced that she's moving to New York. As Zach realizes that he can't let her leave, he also decides he's got to become a better man -- one that Abbey will be sure to fall in love with. So, he does what any rational man whose life doesn't exist as the basis for a situational comedy would do: He enlists the help of his best-friend-with-a-best-friend-name Bleckman (Harland Williams, the guy who drank the pee in Dumb and Dumber) to track down all of his ex-girlfriends and see what exactly went wrong in their relationships. Would-be wacky hijinks -- not to mention a little lesson about life and love -- ensue.
Before diving into the mess that is Lucky 13, I should confess that I have something of a crush on Lauren Graham. I don't think I'm alone on this one, as I imagine any heterosexual male who thinks smart is sexy, funny is sexy, quirky and original and, yes, sexy is sexy, probably feels the same way about the actress. Of the three kinds of women in the world -- those who make the joke, those who get the joke, and those who will never get the joke -- Graham rests comfortably among the first group; that she's a talented actress and (somewhat unconventionally) attractive only fuels my crush further. I'll have to blame the wife on this one, not only for demonstrating that possessing all of these qualities is actually possible for one woman, but also for turning me on to Graham's show, Gilmore Girls, in the first place (it's now one of my favorites on television). It's all her fault.
It's with a heavy heart, then, that I must report that Graham's participation in Lucky 13 makes little to no difference in making the film any good, much less watchable. Sure, she's a bright spot any time she's on screen (which, all things considered, isn't much), but she's never given anything to do. It's rare that she's even given dialogue; more often than not, she's simply regarded by the camera through montage or drowned out by the soundtrack. (Kudos to the music supervisor for putting Badly Drawn Boy's "The Shining" to good use; too bad the teen comedy Get Over It! beat you to it.) She's the "perfect girl," see, so she doesn't even need to speak -- we can just stare at her and revel in her perfection. Well, okay, but the movie's only doing half its job there -- we're not going to believe that she's perfect simply because the movie tells us so. We've got to see that perfection in action, and for that, Graham's the right gal for the job (though I don't doubt that I'm still allowing to much of her Gilmore goodwill to spill over here). That the filmmakers fail to capitalize on that -- they don't have at least that much figured out -- is a strong indication of where I presume their heads are at. It would be ungentlemanly for me to elaborate.
Beyond the presence of Graham (however wasted), I can't come up with a single reason to recommend Lucky 13. The screenplay, by Ari Schlossberg (Hide and Seek) and director Chris Hall, rips off a single plot element from Nick Hornby's great High Fidelity (Rob revisits his ex-girlfriends to figure out what went wrong) and extends it to feature length. It's not a bad idea for a movie, but Hornby (and the guys who later adapted it for film) figured out that it played best as a sequence -- an inspired idea amid a dozen other inspired ideas. Lucky 13 (a title in search of a movie), on the other hand, depends on that one plot element to carry the entire movie -- it's a one-joke (if you can call it that) premise that's too thin to work. That it's developed with all the grace and maturity of a low-grade cartoon doesn't help.
Also destroying the movie's chances of succeeding is the central performance by Brad Hunt (whose film credit on the disc jacket is Magnolia, despite the fact that he's in all of about forty-five seconds of that movie -- he's the firefighter who slugs Patton Oswalt and later commits suicide during the Ricky Jay prologue). His is one of the slowest, dullest, and least charismatic performances I've seen in a film. I recognize that he's meant to be playing something of a mope (at least, I think so, though that certainly doesn't help to explain how he managed to snag twelve previous girlfriends), but there has to be a way to do it without just being a mope on screen -- just ask Bill Murray. So fantastically uninteresting an actor is Brad Hunt that he's upstaged by every other actor in every scene, regardless of who it is or what the scene is about. When you find yourself thinking that you'd rather be watching a movie about the girl who works at the grocery store -- who only appears in a single scene, incidentally -- you know there's a problem.
The DVD release of Lucky 13 comes from MGM, which once again delivers a technically sound but supplement-free release of a film that might better have been forgotten. The movie is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that looks just fine; the cinematography may be nothing special, but the disc represents it well. A Dolby digital 5.1 surround track is the only audio option, and that's more than enough -- the music and (lame) dialogue come through loud and clear. The only extras on the disc are the now-standard bonus trailers that automatically launch upon putting the disc into your player.
Please, someone in Hollywood discover what a perfect romantic comedy lead Lauren Graham makes so she won't have to accept any more films like Lucky 13. It's like having Michael Jordan play for the Wizards -- the sport's right, but the game is all wrong.
Let Graham go, but lock the rest of these mooks up for a "lucky" 13 years.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Bonus Trailers