Soldiers might be clamoring to re-enlist if they all saw as much action in their homecoming as the threesome in “The Lucky Ones.” Returning to combat could seem like a picnic in comparison with the tumult these three endure once back on U.S. soil.
“The Lucky Ones” is the latest casualty in Hollywood’s unsatisfying parade of war-on-terror dramas, a movie built on improbabilities.
Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams and Michael Pena manage occasional moments of humor and pathos as three wounded Iraq War veterans on an impromptu road trip across America.
But mostly, the screenplay by director Neil Burger and co-writer Dirk Wittenborn forges a false camaraderie by hurling the three lead players into perpetual artificial situations.
Beginning with a blackout that forces them to rent a car and drive rather than fly, “The Lucky Ones” tosses out one convenient contrivance after another to bond these battle-scarred strangers together, culminating in a preposterous encounter with a tornado that seems to blow in from some action flick playing in the next theater.
Though each comes with a fairly detailed life story, the characters themselves feel like hollow creations, deliberately designed as utter opposites so the filmmakers can show us how we’re all really the same inside.
Robbins plays Fred Cheever, a sturdy family man eager to return home to his wife and teenage son in the St. Louis suburbs.
Pena is T.K. Poole, a cocky sergeant headed to Las Vegas to seek “professional” sex therapy to restore his male plumbing, which is on the blink from a shrapnel wound that he fears would diminish him in the eyes of his fiancee.
McAdams is Colee Dunn, a Southerner who’s taken nothing but hard knocks in life yet retains her cheery optimism as she carts a fallen comrade’s valuable guitar back to his parents, who coincidentally also live in Vegas.
Seated near one another on a flight from Germany to New York, the three then end up sharing a minivan and all kinds of fabricated adventures meant to turn them from passing acquaintances to comrades in arms.
The disparate veterans bicker and broil, but they repeatedly have one another’s backs through a bar scuffle, a strange church service, a stranger society shindig, clashes with civilians over the Iraq conflict and any number of interpersonal crises.
Though our heroes don’t always get what they want, the road manages to toss up precisely what they need. Unfortunately, there’s little subtlety to the roadblocks, detours, U-turns and pit stops Burger and his team concoct.
How utterly felicitous that the story produces not just one, but two potential methods to produce exactly the amount of cash required to settle one of the soldiers’ financial burdens.
How deliriously fantastic that the group stumbles on a trio of skilled sex workers in the absolute middle of nowhere, women who might be able to ease T.K.’s little problem.
And how about that tornado, preceded by a monster hail storm, the foul weather wafting into the movie literally from out of the blue?
The stark documentary style of “The Lucky Ones” is a complete turnabout from the classy, surreal look of Burger’s last film, “The Illusionist.” However, that tale of magic and sleight of hand is much more plausible than his farfetched take on Iraq War homecomings.