Rated PG-13; Directed by Curtis Hanson; Starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Debra Messing
Lucky You is a strange concoction. A great cast, a good director (Curtis Hanson directed L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile), and an interesting idea should make for a very good movie, but something is missing in this movie. Yes, there are scenes that have power, but the film just can’t quit gel. The movie trailers indicate a romantic-comedy, but the film only intermittently dips into comedy and romance. Lucky You is more of a father/son drama that takes place in the world of competitive poker.
Eric Bana stars at Huck Cheever, a professional gambler who plays a little too emotionally, especially when he’s competing against his father, L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), a two-time world poker champion. Along with a strained relationship with his father, Huck is also not much for commitment with the ladies. When he meets Billy Offer (Drew Barrymore) things begin to change. The troubles with his father and with Billy lead up to a world poker championship game.
If you like poker (it’s No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em) you’ll have plenty to enjoy in this film. If not, so many games are played that it begins to lose its fascination unless Huck is playing against his father. Those anxious scenes create some momentum up through that final table. The film is overlong, but it does offer some enjoyment as we enter the world of professional poker. Several professional players portray themselves. Certain scenes have a snap and energy as we watch long-time competitors tease each other at the tables.
Eric Bana manages to make Huck an interesting, even unsympathetic character. In fact, he’s often a cad, but with L.C. as his dad it explains a lot. Duvall steals his scenes with a laid-back venom that plays well against Bana’s uptight impetuousness. The only character that doesn’t play well is Billy. Drew Barrymore tries hard, but the writing has Billy as a naïve innocent who continues to give caddish Huck a chance, even after he steals from her. It also strains our credulity that Huck would actually find Billy interesting. Debra Messing as Billy’s older sister is a more believable and interesting character than Billy the ingénue.
It’s not the romantic-comedy advertised in the trailers, and it’s not a great poker film. Still, when Eric Bana and Robert Duvall face off against each other over the poker tables the movie manages to entertain, and they do it enough times to keep our interest.