The list of movies about American soldiers fighting in Iraq continues to grow. The latest addition is The Lucky Ones, a saga about three GI’s heading back to the states -- two on a 30-day leave, one done with his service. When their connecting flights get delayed, they go in together on a rental car and begin a road trip that is neither entertaining nor interesting. In fact some comments I heard when leaving the theater stated the lucky ones would be those who chose not to see this movie.
Once on their way out of New York, Colee (Rachel McAdams), Cheever (Tim Robbins) and
TK (Michael Pena) begin to learn about each other. Colee is headed to Las Vegas. She’s taking a guitar that belonged to her buddy who got killed in Iraq to his parents. TK can’t wait to meet up with his girlfriend, but welcomes the diversion of the trip while he figures out how to tell her he got wounded and can no longed have sex. Cheever is excited to be heading home to St. Louis where he can reunite with his wife and son after a two year absence.
All three of the vets suffer physical ailments. TK got hit with shrapnel. Colee is nursing an open wound on her thigh from a bullet and Cheever has back problems. Their emotional wounds are far deeper, however, and they’re barely out of New York before TK insults Colee and the two are in a fight so physical Cheever has to pull off the road to separate them. Naturally, he locks the keys in the car and they have the first of many, many contrivances that pop up along the way.
Michael Pena and Rachel McAdams
Finally the three arrive at Cheever’s house. He plans to take his comrades to the airport so they can catch a flight to Vegas. Things change when Cheever’s wife tells him she wants a divorce. His son gives Dad good news, he’s made it into Stanford, but, he needs $20,000 for tuition. Unprepared for both announcements, Cheever informs TK and Colee he’ll take them to Vegas.
With each incident the trio experience the trip gets more ridiculous. Instead of facing their objectives with the tactical strengths they should have learned in the military, these three act like goofballs we’d see in a movie like American Pie. In one town Colee jumps head on into a bar fight. In another she drags the guys into church and confesses to the congregation that TK can’t have sex. Then she accepts an invite to a swanky barbecue where Cheever gets caught in bed with a married woman by her husband who doesn’t care! When TK can’t decide if he wants to go back to Iraq and or defect to Canada, he confesses to a robbery so he’ll go to prison, leaving his car pool buddies to figure a way out of that one.
Neither McAdams (Wedding Crashers), Robbins (Catch a Fire) nor Pena (Shooter) offer a believable performance, so there’s no concern about these characters. Colee acts like a spoiled teenager on her first roller coaster ride. TK is spineless, unable to set a game plan and stick to it. Cheever has little reaction to anything that happens during the entire trip; he might as well be a fly stuck on the windshield.
One thing really upset me. If anyone has noticed the soldiers returning home, they realize these men want the safety and normalcy of their homes. It’s doubtful they would find themselves on a stupid road trip to nowhere with people who certainly lack any of the traits of trained professional military men. Soldiers don’t run from their problems; they face them head on.
The biggest disappointment is in this script, which is written by Neil Burger (who also directs) and Dirk Wittenborn (Fierce People). Burger gave us the delightful Illusionist in 2006 that had everything; a great story, a wonderful production, real emotion and exceptional performances. The Lucky Ones has none of these. The film’s tag line, “Sometimes losing your way home means finding yourself,” never came to light in the characters I saw in The Lucky Ones.
Photo credits: James Bridges/Lionsgate