Zac Efron is only 24, but to Twiharding, Bieber-bopping little girls he’s a dinosaur.
So the “High School Musical” grad has chosen the route once so fortuitous for ex-Mickey Mouse Clubber Ryan Gosling: the sun-dappled, kisses-in-the-rain Nicholas Sparks weepie.
But “The Lucky One” is no “Notebook,” and Efron is unlikely to be seen stomping on a hitman’s face in an elevator anytime soon.
Efron plays U.S. Marine Sgt. Logan Thibault, who credits surviving his third tour of duty in Iraq to a dusty photo of a young woman named Beth (Taylor Schilling of “Mercy”) found in the rubble.
So Logan sets out from Colorado with his German shepherd, Zeus, walking all the way to film production tax-credit-haven Louisiana (not Sparks’ beloved North Carolina) to thank her.
He takes a job at Beth’s kennel, where she trains dogs when she’s not substitute-teaching Montessori school, running miles or tidying her Restoration Hardware-appointed homestead while wearing gauzy white blouses.
While we wait for Logan and Beth to fall in love, Logan bonds with her 7-year-old son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), over music and chess; charms her grandmother (Blythe Danner); and incurs the jealous wrath of her ex-husband (Jay R. Ferguson of “Mad Men”), a scion of one of those rich political families that always seem to be lurking within the moss-shrouded mansions of Sparks’ novels.
Will Logan reveal the truth to Beth? Will he get that darn tractor running, repair her dead father’s beloved boat and give Ben the confidence to play his violin in church?
That’s about all that can be asked of a drama with little conflict aside from an easily swept-aside threat for sole custody and little energy expended by the participants.
If Efron seems even more phlegmatic than usual, his excuse is that his character is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But with lines like “You should be kissed — every day, every hour, every minute” can you blame him for not trying?
For all the passionate grappling in outdoor showers or under mosquito nets, there’s no heat between Efron and the bland Schilling — having matching impossibly blue eyes is not enough.
Director Scott Hicks (“Shine”) shamelessly milks what little melodrama there is, right up to the ludicrous climax, in this otherwise enervating romance.
Movies of Sparks’ novels are generally reliable tear-duct drainers, but with chemistry and conflict gone AWOL, there won’t be a damp eye in the house.