Just My Luck (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

With a title like Just My Luck, the urge to make puns is almost irresistible. However, in recognition of the fact that the film isn't that bad, I shall refrain from doing so.

It's tough for me to determine how 13-year old girls will respond to Just My Luck. Since I haven't been one, my ability to judge their view of this kind of juvenile romantic comedy fantasy is limited. Just My Luck is lightweight, and it's hard to imagine how it could be more predictable. The comedy frequently isn't funny, and the drama (to the extent that there is drama) lacks substance. The film's saving graces are the presence of a spark between the two leads and a winning performance from Chris Pine. Sadly, given Lindsay Lohan's lackluster work, one has to wonder if reverberations from her off-screen overexposure have impacted her acting.

Ashley Albright (Lohan) is the spiritual sister of Sally Albright (Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally). She's perky to a fault, mainly because she may be the luckiest person ever to walk this planet. When Ashley walks out her front door, she doesn't have to worry about an umbrella because the sun will start shining. She barely has to raise her hand and a cab pulls over. And she never loses with those scratch-off lottery tickets. Jake Hardin (Pine), on the other hand, is a walking ode to misfortune. He's the anti-Ashley, the living embodiment of Murphy's Law. So what happens when these two lock lips at a masquerade ball? Luck becomes a communicable disease, and they swap situations. Now, Jake is the fortunate one, and Sally has inherited bad luck and its cousins: incompetence and stupidity. These three characteristics define her character for the next fifty minutes of screen time.

Lohan is a disappointment. The liveliness and charisma she displayed in previous efforts like Freaky Friday and Mean Girls is not in evidence here. Too often, her performance is flat and routine - a by-the-book reading that could be accomplished by any actress in her age range. There are also scenes in which she looks tired (consider the early elevator sequence where she meets Mr. Rich Guy With Great Hair). Usually makeup takes care of this sort of thing, but not here. It's too early to write off Lohan, but she needs to bring more to future roles if she wants to stay in the spotlight. The actresses who play her cat-loving co-workers and roommates (Samaire Armstrong and Bree Turner) are more appealing. From an attention-grabbing standpoint, Chris Pine deserves to be singled out. He makes loser Jake into an engaging character worth rooting for.

Just My Luck spends a lot of time equating bad luck with ineptitude and idiocy. For example, when Linday Lohan puts too much detergent into the washing machine and there's an explosion of suds, this isn't bad luck, it's foolishness. A lot of the bad things that happen are of the embarrassing sort, so director Donald Petrie (whose resume includes a lot of unmentionable garbage since Grumpy Old Men) spends 30 minutes discomfiting Jake before turning the humiliation on full blast for Ashley. While it might be amusing to see a character subjected to this sort of treatment for a while, it doesn't take long for it to get old, and there's too little humor to make it worthwhile. At best, Just My Luck tries for sit-com laughs, and only occasionally gets them.

Back to the 13 year old girls… This movie was made for them, and I daresay they will probably appreciate it. It offers the fantasy of true romance with a dollop of self-sacrifice at the end, when the star-crossed lovers recognize that being with each other is more important than having good luck all the time. (I don't consider that a spoiler. The movie is too predictable to allow spoilers. You thought they weren't going to end up together??) For anyone who wants a movie with adult sensibilities, however, Just My Luck will fit on the spectrum somewhere between tiresome and insulting. From my perspective, it's watchable, but barely, and nothing I would go out of my way to locate, even if going "out of my way" represents using a remote control to change TV channels.

Just My Luck (United States, 2006)

Run Time: 1:43
U.S. Release Date: 2006-05-12
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1