Reel Critics: 'Lucky One' follows romantic formula

Nicholas Sparks writes romantic novels that often become chick flick movies. "The Notebook," "Message in a Bottle" and"Nights in Rodanthe" are films that demonstrate his formulas for depicting people in various stages of PG-13 love.

"The Lucky One"is his latest book to reach the big screen. Zac Efron plays a soldier in Iraq who spots a photo of a blond woman on the ground after a firefight. As he walks over to pick it up, a mortar round explodes behind him. He survives and credits the girl in the photo for his good luck.

He carries the photo for the rest of his tour. When he returns to America, he sets out to find the mystery woman in the photo.

Of course he finds the lovely lady, a single mom played by Taylor Schilling. Of course they eventually fall in love. But they must overcome the interference of her hard-drinking ex-husband. He happens to be a local cop who creates lots of trouble for our amorous soldier boy.

But don't worry. You know the drill: Love conquers all!


Ratcheting up battle of the sexes

The romantic comedy"Think Like a Man"puts a lighthearted spin on the eternal battle of the sexes. It doesn't give us anything new, but it's done with a lot of style.

Based onSteve Harvey'sbook "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," it aims to give advice to women on how to get the ultimate in a relationship — including respect and a ring — by giving away men's secrets.

So we get a formulaic ensemble of great-looking types such as the Mama's Boy, the Dreamer, the Non-Committal Boy, the Single Mom, and the Woman-Who-is-Her-Own-Man. They're good people who eventually consult the book to figure out how to outwit the opposite sex in the game of love.

The movie is funny-cute and sometimes raunchy thanks to Kevin Hart's scrappy, Happy-He's-Getting-Divorced-Guy. He and his good-natured band of brothers riff on dating, sex and love over basketball and beers, while their ladies consult their new-found "bible" over lunch. Who will win the upper hand?

With a likable cast that includes Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara (from "Entourage"), Taraji P. Henson, and Gabrielle Union, "Think Like a Man" is more enjoyable than some of the more recent rom-coms that I can recall.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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