Three soldiers are on their way home from Iraq. They have each suffered injuries. Fred Cheaver (Robbins) is on his way home for good. He’s retired and looks forward to getting back to St. Louis and his wife and son. Colee Dunn (McAdams) is a young woman who was injured in her leg and now has a month leave. She’s planning on going to Las Vegas to return a guitar to the family of her boyfriend, who died in Iraq. T.K. Poole was injured in the groin and is also on his way to Las Vegas for a one month leave. He’s afraid that his fiancée won’t want him back because his injury appears to have left him impotent. He’s heard tell of sex experts in Vegas that might be able to “get him working again”. The three are strangers until a blackout cancels their flights once in the United States. They decide to carpool to St. Louis with Fred and get flights out of there for Vegas. During the trip they bond somewhat which turns out to be fortuitous for Fred. When he gets home he finds that things are not going to be the way he planned. His two new friends join him in extending the road trip, ultimately to Vegas. There no one finds what they expected.
If you’re looking for a film about the war, one side or another, you are most likely going to be disappointed. There is very little discussion on that front, and what is there is what you would expect from someone like Tim Robbins who wears his politics on his sleeve. Fortunately it is a limited scope and not really the point of the movie. What looks like a soldier film is really a very typical and unoriginal road trip film about bonding. They meet the typical odd characters and weird circumstances along the way. The acting and characters are charming to some degree. All three performers do a good job of bringing some chemistry to the film, but it all appears so pointless. The problem is that the film is ultimately claustrophobic, and while there’s tons of driving, it doesn’t end up going anywhere at all. In the end the characters are little changed by their experience, and we’re led to believe will go on with their lives. In the end it’s an innocent enough diversion, nothing more.
The Lucky Ones is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There are moments the film looks like someone was hoping to make things more cheerful through rather bright lighting. Most of the time there is an abundance of sunshine. Much of the trip occurs in the desert, so there is a reasonable logic to that approach. The problem is it looks like it should be a comedy, but it’s not. The cinescapes are beautiful, and the locations show up pretty well here. These well photographed locations are the best thing I can say about the film. Colors do pop once in a while. Actually it’s the drab olive and fern colors of the soldiers in uniform at the film’s conclusion that were the most impressive to me. The red van they travel in demonstrates good color reproduction, just somewhat exaggerated lighting. There was some compression artifact and grain, so black levels aren’t very good here at all.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is mostly average. There are a few bright spots of nice surround mixing, but this is 95% talk, so dialog is the order of the day. It’s well presented, and you’ll have no trouble catching it.
A Look Inside – The Lucky Ones: This 15 minute feature is mostly cast and crew offering up some synopsis information. They do keep telling us that this is not a war or soldier film. Someone really should have told the DVD prep crew, as that is what the box art and text want us to believe. In fact they spend most of the time telling us what the film is not. I did like the decked out shooting van with the driver in a roll cage on the roof.
There’s really nothing to dislike about the movie. The problem is that there’s not a lot to really like, either. I think indifference is the worst feeling a reviewer can have for a film. I think that a movie is better off having people like me hate it with a vengeance than just not care one way or the other once it was done. That’s the kind of movie that comes and goes, leaving barely a whisper in its wake. It was a couple hours out of my life, soon forgotten. Robbins should have gotten me ticked by ranting about conservatives more. “Maybe that would have been better.”