Fold 'em, now

Published May 4, 2007

Lucky You is a poker movie that cheats, a cinematic bluff - and the most intolerable two hours anyone will spend in a theater this weekend.

Start with Drew Barrymore's above-the-title billing for an inconsequential role she's obviously disinterested in. Barrymore plays Billie Offer, a mediocre singer set on making it big in Las Vegas. The decision to cut short Barrymore's two songs is director Curtis Hanson's wisest move; the lack of anything else worthwhile for her is his dumbest.

Billie meets a troubled gambler named Huck Cheever, played by the photogenic yet achingly dull Eric Bana Hulk, Munich. Huck mopes through Lucky You because compulsive gambling keeps him broke and longing for a spot in the World Series of Poker. It's a movie, so you know he'll get there.

Huck's father L.C. (Robert Duvall) is a two-time champion, a wife deserter and smugly confident in his card skills. Duvall is an actor who can make chicken salad out of a chicken's most unappealing parts, an apt description of the screenplay's lumpy blend of poker tips and Dr. Phil cliches.

These characters aren't given any dramatic arc, romantic chemistry, fiery conflict or clever dialogue. Instead, Hanson and co-writer Eric Roth give remedial lessons in poker strategy and etiquette, and then violate each one. A few famous high rollers make cameo appearances in vain attempts for authenticity. (We'll leave it to the guys at the St. Petersburg Times' Ante Up! podcast (blogs.tampabay.com/poker) to pick apart everything wrong at the tables.

Nothing in Lucky You feels real, or charming enough to pass as escapist fun. The finest accomplishment of Hanson's film is that it eventually ended. Lucky me.

Steve Persall can be reached at (727) 893-8365 or persall@sptimes.com.


Lucky You

Grade: D-

Director: Curtis Hanson

Cast: Eric Bana, Robert Duvall, Drew Barrymore, Debra Messing, Horatio Sanz, Charlie Martin Smith, Robert Downey Jr.

Screenplay: Eric Roth, Curtis Hanson

Rating: PG-13; profanity, sexual humor, gambling

Running time: 124 min.