Lucky is a black comedy about greed, marriage and murder with Tom Hanks’s look-alike son Colin—a chip off the old block—as a shy, nerdy aw-shucks office drone named Ben Keller, whose dreary job in an accounting firm is going nowhere until he wins the $36 million Iowa State Lottery. Ben has suffered an unrequited passion for Lucy (Ari Graynor), the office receptionist, since childhood. She couldn’t care less. Then Ben’s nagging, neurotic mother, Pauline (Ann-Margret, of all people), finds a crumpled, discarded lottery ticket hiding in her son’s closet that changes his life. Suddenly, Lucy sees dollar signs, unwisely marries this doofus for his money, and learns to her chagrin that he’s gone through almost one million dollars of his first check in record time because he has no talent for arithmetic (odd, for a wannabe accountant). This is already grounds for instant divorce. But wait. In the middle of their Hawaiian honeymoon (actually filmed inside a zoo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to save money), a bland comedy without much punch dramatically shifts gears when Lucy discovers Ben is also a serial killer!
This absurdist premise is not without promise, and the cast is game, attractive and generally terrific, but unfortunately director Gil Cates Jr. doesn’t know what to do with any of them. And to make things worse, the screenplay by Kent Sublette (a writer for Saturday Night Live) leaves them stranded, like lost luggage in a Greyhound bus depot. Lucy, who plans to pack up her pet parakeet and dump Ben as soon as the next lottery check arrives, keeps digging up and tripping over dead bodies, delaying her departure. With so much leaden colloquy, a lot of the film is improvised for obvious reasons, which probably explains dialogue that is neither pointed nor funny. In the showdown, Lucy whines: “I may have married you under false pretenses, but after spending time with you I came to really…but then you started killing people, Ben, and it’s just too much!” The corpses include three comely blondes, one of whom was the real owner of the winning lottery ticket, as well as Lucy’s ex-boyfriend and a hapless detective (a wasted Jeffrey Tambor) who makes the fatal mistake of coming between Lucy and the new lottery check. Before the twist ending, the tables turn for everyone, and the surprises accelerate, full steam ahead.
Colin Hanks is a polished, psychopathic preppie—appealing, understated and natural in a role that is bland as a Parker House roll. With a lot of his father’s visible DNA and a reliable Everyman’s blue-collar face that makes him a natural for steady employment, I predict he’ll morph from leads into character roles even faster than it took his father. Be advised that the real star is Ari Graynor, an accomplished comedienne and edgy Ellen Barkin clone with a kooky, stretchy malleability, like push-pull taffy. Ann-Margret is always wonderful, full of surprises, and still beautiful, even when she’s miscast and hobbling around on a phony cane. In Lucky, they’re not always lucky. The film is awkward, the situations tenuous and underdeveloped, the pacing torturous as a slow drip from a leaking faucet, and the narrative just plods along, with the body count rising for no clear reason.
The moral, if you search closely, is simple: If you’re a homicidal wacko, be sure you don’t fall in love with somebody who is crazier than you are. But it comes late, in a contrived epilogue that wouldn’t hold up in court on a slow Friday afternoon.
Running time 87 minutes
Written by Ken Sublette
Directed by Gil Cates, Jr.
Starring Colin Hanks, Ari Graynor, Ann-Margaret