A couple of years ago, celebrity poker tournaments managed to get some interest on cable channels. That, in turn, has kicked up some interest for poker movies. Hollywood tries to cash in on that nutty poker craze with Lucky You, a torturously bad, ill-conceived card movie that turned this critic’s stoic poker face into a full-on pained grimace.
Eric Bana stars as Huck Cheever, a total idiot hotshot card player with bad hair and bad taste in leather jackets. The film opens with an interesting enough scene as Bana haggles with a pawnshop owner, but things slowly starts to go downhill when he enters a casino. The film really bottoms out and stays there when Drew Barrymore, a decent enough comic actress but lacking in the dramatic department, shows up and drawls her lines. She plays Billie Offer (what’s with these stupid names?), a mopey casino singer who is stupid enough to still hang around with Huck after he steals her money. I always questioned Barrymore’s acting abilities, and this film doesn’t do much for the argument that she’s any good. Start campaigning for your next Sandler reunion, Drew.
Huck and Billie conduct a boring relationship with the World Series of Poker as the backdrop. He is looking to buy himself a seat in the tournament in order to best his poker nemesis and father, L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall). This sets the table for a bunch of preliminary matches where Bana’s Huck whines at his daddy for his lousy parenting skills before they show their cards. I have no doubt that any man pissing and moaning about his daddy during a high stakes poker match would get doused by a fellow player’s drink. Not once does any player in this film tell the two grousers to shut the hell up. They just look bemused, as if to say, “Those crazy kids!” and keep on playing.
As for Drew Barrymore’s singing … yeesh! I hereby issue an apology to Kirsten Dunst for comments about her warbling in Spider-Man 3 because Barrymore is far worse. My friend had a big sweet dog that would yowl in the corner just for the hell of it, and that dog could carry a tune far better than E.T.'s Gertie.
Watching Barrymore put her heart and soul into some casino cabaret standards made me want to exit the theater in a dead sprint, blasting by the dude taking tickets in such a way as to make him shout, “Damn, that there movie critic sure has a bee in his bonnet! Must’ve been the Barrymore singing. Seems to have that effect on the local folk.” For some reason, I picture the ticket-taker as an old prospector.
As for the card games, I suppose showing a poker match as it is usually conducted (read: semi silently without family feuds) would’ve been a bit stagnant. Still, having the Bana character air out his daddy issues in between checks and calls is preposterous. The film is directed by the normally reliable Curtis Hanson, who can’t win with his two stars generating zero chemistry. Casting somebody other than Barrymore probably would’ve been prudent, but that wouldn’t have saved us the tedium of watching Duvall and Bana grouse during card games.
Lucky You could’ve been helped by somebody like actor/card shark David Cross getting cast and bringing some life to the party. Cross kicked unholy ass during one of those celebrity poker tournament programs, and this movie is severely in need of his kind of witty banter. As it stands, Cross will be costarring in another poker film, The Grand, which just screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Hopefully, it will be better than this turkey.