Lucky You is two movies. At once itís a compelling poker tournament drama that often is engaging and it is also a romantic comedy which never quite takes off. Maybe if the filmmakers had decided which movie they wanted to make, they could have focused that energy into something that delivers. As is, itís a bit sporadic.
Eric Bana and Robert Duvall are son and father as well as rival poker players. Bana spends all his time trying to get into the World Series of Poker. This could have been a very fascinating portrait of compulsion but it most often is played for laughs. This is mostly because the filmmakers have thrown in Drew Barrymore as the love interest. She brings her cute and clever thing into the mix but it falls flat. The two have no chemistry and the film fumbles both the comedic and the romantic moments. The audience never feels it.
However, once Bana gets back to the table, the film often finds it groove again. The playing scenes reach points of real intensity. One of the nice parts of this is how the games donít go the way you expect which always keeps you guessing. The players get far too many great hands to make it truly believable but at least they keep you on the edge of your seat.
Still, Lucky You is a bit of a disappointment. This is directed by Curtis Hansen who is a bit of a miracle worker. He put Eminem and Britney Murphey into a movie about an aspiring white rapper and actually produced a good movie. That in itself is a miracle. He made Russel Crowe a star. The most amazing trick he has pulled off is directing the wooden Kim Basinger to an Oscar. It doesnít get more impressive than that.
Thatís why itís so confounding that he can fumble this movie as much as he does. His work is flat here. How hard it is to get romantic chemistry out of Barrymore? He has truly talented actors and yet he has a hard time really generating any emotion.
Still, if you like watching poker - and these days, who doesnít - Lucky You is worth checking out. Thatís the part of the film that goes right and very few films have made this work.