ZAC EFRON is a man now. He's barely recognizable in The Lucky One, the latest in the heart-obliterating run of films based on Nicholas Sparks books like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember. Efron plays Logan, a stoic PTSD-suffering Iraq veteran who walks his smoldering blue eyes across these United States in search of an angelic blonde woman whose photo served as his good-luck charm during his final tour of duty. When he finds Beth (Taylor Schilling), he's too stoic to thank her—so instead, he takes a job working at her family's dog kennel.
At first, she doesn't like him, but then she does and then their love has some setbacks caused by Beth's ex-husband, town sheriff Keith (Jay R. Ferguson). Keith is also handsome, but his masculinity is more of the smirkity smirk, drive around in a Mustang, grab my ex-wife's arm variety. Sometimes Sparks hits us over the head with Logan's goodness and intelligence, like in the scene where Logan LITERALLY TAKES KEITH'S PENIS APART. When I say "penis," I mean "gun."
But listen, subtlety is not why anyone goes to Nicholas Sparks movies. No, people go to say, "Damn, Nick, make it believable for me. Make believe this is real." AND THEN HE DOES. The actors deserve further golf clapping for the range of emotion they show: There's one scene where Keith goes from being a man who had his penis dismantled to a repentant lover to a spooky arm-grabber in eight breaths.
Super-competent director Scott Hicks (Snow Falling on Cedars, Hearts in Atlantis) knows how to film Efron's head perfectly—when Efron looked up and threw his deep blues at the audience, I heard audible gasps. He's either that pretty now, or Hicks is that good. The whole movie, in fact, is chockfull of ultra-beautiful ambient Louisiana scenes and the light falls on all of it JUST SO. The Lucky One is like a sexy, Norman Rockwell well-lit heart-gasm.