Just what is it about the current war, you have to wonder, that inspires such painfully mediocre movies? How long must we wait for Iraq II’s Apocalypse Now, its Full Metal Jacket—hell, even its Three Kings? A solid effort, flawed but daring, did finally turn up at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month: Kathryn Bigelow’s stoic bomb-defusing saga The Hurt Locker, due for release sometime in 2009. Unfortunately, Toronto also gave us The Lucky Ones, a seriocomic road movie about three G.I.s adjusting to civilian life that evinces such a tenuous grip on reality that it might as well star the ghosts of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.
Instead, we get Robbins, Peña (who played the other trapped firefighter in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, opposite Nicolas Cage) and McAdams as Cheever, TK and Colee, respectively, strangers who meet cute after the 2003 East Coast blackout grounds all flights and forces them to pool their resources and drive cross-country. Cheever, a reservist who’s just been permanently discharged, can’t wait to get home to his family in St. Louis; upon arriving, however, he discovers that his wife wants a divorce, and his son needs $20,000 for Stanford. And so it’s off to—yes!—Vegas, where Colee plans to return her dead boyfriend’s guitar to his family and TK, rendered impotent by shrapnel to the groin, hopes to consult a specialist.
All three actors do creditable work—Robbins, in particular, is more restrained and open than he’s been in quite some time, lending Cheever a goofy gravity. But the script, written by director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) and Dirk Wittenborn, places these potentially interesting characters in one laughably contrived misadventure after another, ranging from a barroom brawl (started by Colee) to a menage à trois to—I am not making this up—a tornado that gives TK a miracle hard-on. All that’s missing is a treasure map and some friendly hookers. No, wait, there actually are friendly hookers. Haven’t our brave soldiers suffered enough? Not to mention the rest of us?