"Lucky Ones" a predictable, Iraq-themed road trip

Mon Sep 8, 2008 11:26pm EDT
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By Sura Wood

SAN FRANCISCO (Hollywood Reporter) - Like prisoners who can't make it on the outside, the three soldiers who return home briefly from Iraq in Neil Burger's droll road movie, "The Lucky Ones," find they function better in the military.

Although it doesn't overcome the genre's cliches, the wryly titled film's arch humor and Tim Robbins' confident, nuanced performance hold this meandering, predictable trip together.

With audiences hardly rushing to see Iraq-related war movies, expect minimal box office for Roadside Attractions' limited Sept. 26 release.

Cheever (Tim Robbins), T.K. (Michael Pena) and Colee (Rachel McAdams with an annoying Southern drawl) meet when their connecting flights are canceled and share a car. Cheever heads home to a wife who has moved on and a son who needs tuition for Stanford, a predicament that sets the saga in motion. T.K., the Latin lover with a groin injury, is anxious about his sexual performance, while the guileless Colee discovers that her boyfriend, a fellow soldier killed in Iraq, wasn't what he seemed.

The plot functions in a rudimentary fashion, setting up one contrived complication after another, engendering a desire, despite a few amusing scenes and pleasant company, for the trio to arrive at their respective destinations as soon as possible. While waiting for the stock characters to hit their marks -- the initial brazen posturing followed by the revelation of hidden frailty and the inevitable bonding of unlikely people who are better for knowing each other -- one feels the cogs of the script turning. (Burger and Dirk Wittenborn wrote the screenplay.) Its topicality notwithstanding, the film feels dated, a sensation underlined by Rolfe Kent's cheesy score.

As the group passes through sterile landscapes, meeting sexually voracious fundamentalists, accommodating sex workers and a Hummer dealer, Burger and cinematographer Declan Quinn paint an outsider's vision of Americana, a land of identical McMansions and fast-food joints. The journey culminates in Las Vegas, the ultimate plastic fantasyland, but not before a sudden tornado leads to T.K achieving an erection, an event the film treats as paramount to surviving a natural disaster.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Tim Robbins speaks at a screening of "The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles June 9, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>