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photo1-largeNicolas Sparks is to romance writing what Buckley’s cough syrup is to a tickly throat. They both get the job done, but leave a sickly sweet aftertaste.

“The Lucky One” sees Zac Efron play Logan, a Marine with three tours of duty in Iraq under his belt. After one deadly night raid in which several Marines are killed, he finds a photo of a beautiful woman with the words “Stay safe” written on the back. The mystery woman becomes his guardian angel when a bomb explodes seconds after he picked up the picture. If he hadn’t left his post to retrieve the photo he would have been killed.  He tries in vain to find the owner of the photo and when he is transferred stateside his search takes him to North Carolina and Beth (Taylor Schilling), the girl in the photo.

Sparks-isms abound in “The Lucky One.” The pen behind stories like “Dear John” and “Nights in Rodanthe” gives us characters with soap opera names like Drake and Logan, people who say things like, “You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute,” and lovers making out in a shower. Unfortunately there isn’t anything here nearly as memorable as “The Notebook’s” lake full of swans scene. Instead we’re given a collection of starry-eyed Sparksian banalities strung together in place of a story.

The story, such that it is, is so slight, so predictable that it has to be fleshed out with musical montages and scenes that don’t forward the story, but simply reinforce what we already know about the characters. We get it, Logan is troubled, but he likes dogs, reads philosophy and plays piano, so he can’t be a bad guy.

That’s as deep as the character study gets in this romance. The characters are black and white—there are no shades of grey. The good people are pure and virtuous; the bad people are corrupt and mean.

If watching good looking people fall in love is enough for you—and that’s OK—then spend your money on “The Lucky One.” But I couldn’t help but think that Efron, when he says to Beth, “I know you deserve better than this,” was actually speaking to the audience.

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